Nigeria tax chief elected head of African forum

Babatunde Fowler
Babatunde Fowler Photo:

The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Tunde Fowler was elected, late Wednesday, as the Council Chairperson of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF).

Mr. Fowler emerged the winner of the keenly contested election during the Forum’s 4th General Assembly meeting in Durban, South Africa.

He was an ATAF Council Member before his election as Council Chairman.

The ATAF spoke of the FIRS Chairman’s victory on its twitter handle: @ATAFtax  thus: “Mr Babatunde Fowler, Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria elected ATAF Council Chair 2016-2018. He will be deputised by Mauritius”.

The ATAF spoke of the FIRS Chairman’s victory on its twitter handle: @ATAFtax thus: “Mr Babatunde Fowler, Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria elected ATAF Council Chair 2016-2018. He will be deputised by Mauritius”.

Mr. Fowler – the first Nigerian to head ATAF – is the 3rd Chairperson of ATAF.

Oupa Magashula of South Africa was the Forum’s first Chairperson.

By his election, the FIRS Chief Executive takes over from the Commissioner General of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Gershem T. Pasi, and will preside over the affairs of the Forum from 2016 to 2018.

Tunde Fowler is an inspiration to the ATAF. Last month, he spoke at an ATAF Workshop on how to contain aggressive tax planning, where he encouraged ATAF Chiefs with the following words: “It is clear by all terms that Africa is blessed with natural resources but it still remains the poorest continent on earth. African currencies are not strong. Unfortunately, many African countries are highly dependent on the trade on natural resources. We do not produce so much, therefore, we find ourselves in a vicious circle. Governments cannot fund themselves through taxation so they cannot provide services and infrastructure that will support business.

“Our job basically is to collect all revenue due to government and make sure that we fund our governments so that they can provide conducive environment for businesses to thrive. The main focus we should keep at heart is that we work for the people of our various countries. So, we should, please take advantage of this opportunity so that we can make a positive impact. It is now time for African Tax Administration Forum to take its rightful place so that in any international conference, ATAF will make a positive impact”, Fowler said.

At the African Tax Administration Forum-International Monetary Fund (ATAF-IMF) seminar in South Africa recently, Mr. Fowler said FIRS was championing the under-listed initiatives and encouraged tax administrators in Africa to do same.

The initiatives include: Tax office modernization; Taxpayer Service education and enlightenment activities on their rights and; VAT Auto-Collect project aimed at on-line, real time deduction and remittance of VAT at source; Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS) project to automate all core tax administration processes (registration, filing, audit etc.) and provision of multiple tax payment channels, such as e-tax pay, Remita, GIFMIS; National Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) project in collaboration with States Internal Revenue Services and massive taxpayers registration activities – which has led to significant widening of the tax base, with the registration over of 700,000 new corporate taxpayers within the past 12 months.

ATAF, the association of tax authorities in Africa, was launched in 2009. It was inspired by the deliberations at the “International Conference on Taxation, State Building and Capacity Development in Africa” held in Pretoria, South Africa from August 28 to 29, 2008. Commissioners, Senior Tax Administrators and Policy Makers from 28 African countries resolved to work towards the establishment of an African Tax Administration Forum.

The objective of the Forum is to create a platform to promote and facilitate mutual cooperation among African Tax Administrations and other relevant and interested stakeholders with the aim of improving the efficiency of their tax legislation and administration.

The Forum pursues this objective through laying a strong basis for a new approach to African taxation, state building and capacity development; establishing and developing bilateral and continental networks to regularly exchange ideas on the lessons learned and good practice on all issues of taxation and examining ways to improve systems and mechanisms in African tax administrations through the sharing of experiences and developing relevant best practices

Born a little over 60 years ago, Mr. Fowler studied in the United States of America at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, where he obtained his first bachelor’s degree with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a minor in Political Science in 1978, a second bachelor’s degree program at California State University, Los Angeles and also a Master of Business Administration degree program at California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1981.

A former Chairman of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) between 2006 and 2015 where he recorded: a sharp increase in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from an average of N3.6 Billion monthly as at January, 2006 to an average of over N23 Billion monthly as at June, 2015; improved quality of service delivery to taxpayers; improvement in the use of IT and other modern methods of tax administration and an unprecedented enlightenment campaign on tax administration and education in Africa.

In recognition of his achievements, Mr. Fowler was awarded Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in 2004, conferred with fellowship ‘Honoris Causa’ by Certified Board of Administrators of Nigeria in May 2007 and Professional Honorary Doctorate Degree in June 2007 by the Irish International University. He is also a Fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and Business Management Association (UK).

Some two months ago, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Ghana, (CITG) at its Annual Tax Conference honoured Mr. Fowler with as an Honourary Fellow of CITG for his contributions to the tax institute and for his “tremendous help to the CITG” in the past years both at FIRS and as Executive Chairman, Lagos Inland Revenue Service, LIRS, for having “consistently mobilized Nigerian tax experts… who have contributed actively to paper presentations and discussions and helped to enrich our conferences.”

“Those expert opinions on various tax issues” the CITG noted, have impacted positively on communiqués issued after each tax conference. This has gone a long way to shape some tax policies of our country and improved revenue mobilization”.

Mr. Fowler is currently implementing initiatives to improve tax compliance and collection in order to meet the FIRS tax collection target of N4.9 trillion for 2016.


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