A former chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru has said that Nigeria could only get its tax system right by including tax in its education curriculum.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru said that through education, tax can imbibed into the fabrics of every Nigerian and better awareness created.
She added that just like extra curricula activities like like football, tennis have become part of many Nigerians, tax can only be put in the school systems.
According to the former FIRS Boss, the money spent on creating awareness through the various media of communication would be reduced if tax and its importance is imbibed at an early age.
“That is the message for anything you want to change: anything you want people to imbibe for posterity use education.
“We are talking about tax, because of where we are now we spend money putting adverts in the newspapers and on radio and television.
“These money spent on awareness can be reduced if right from primary school, just the same way they are discussing what is maize plant, what is cassava plant, they are also saying what is tax, what is illicit financial flows, what is tax policy, what is tax legislature.
“That way, even if you end up being a doctor, you do not have to be a tax man to understand what tax is about.
“One day you may become a minister, you may actually become a minister of finance regardless of what profession you studied.
“You will not need to start understanding what tax is because you already know from the system,” she said.
Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru added that with education, every Nigerian can become a vanguard of tax and understand the link between spending and revenue mobilisation through tax.
She re-emphasised that if tax is put in the minds of citizens at a young age, the problem of illicit financial flows from Nigeria would be mitigated.
“My take and my proposal is for those who are in charge of putting curricula in place should include tax so that we can start putting it in the minds of our citizen from when they are young.
“Build it up so that if you go into the profession that requires taxation it is easier for you, if you don’t you can contribute to the debate.
“Remember that the tax system is not about the person in the tax authority, the tax system is every single one of us.
“So if it is every single one of us then use the educational system to make every single one of us a vanguard for domestic resource mobilisation,” she said.
On the challenge of illicit financial flows and tax, Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru advised all tax agencies to ensure that they build the capacity of staff to understand the problem, make a career of it and help in stopping it in the long rurn.
She stressed that the use of consultants by tax offices might yield revenue in the short run but in the long run when the head of the tax agency is changed or the government changes, the consultants can go leaving staff without capacity and revenue would drop.
She added that if the staff a given the capacity to function effectively then revenue would not be affected by change of government or change of the head of the tax office be it at the state or the federal level.
Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru made presentations and participated as a panellist at the just concluded 5th Pan African Conference on curbing Illicit Financial Flows, IFFs, and Tax from Africa.