Expert Urges Accounting Students To Embrace Tax Consultancy
Prospective graduates of Accounting willing to take taxation as a profession have been encouraged to do so as “tax is the future”.
Speaking at the recent Town and Gown Seminar of the Department of Accounting at the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, the Facilitator, Mr. Olufela Sokenu, the chief executive at the accounting firm Olufela Sokenu and Associates, said economic meltdown is forcing governments to explore the tax option in revenue drive and as such, open huge window of opportunities for tax professionals.
Sokenu, whose presentation titled, ‘Tax Audit and Investigation: Legal and Practical Perspectives’, threw up a number of issues that generated debates at the seminar, said modern governments need money and how they get it is a difficult issue.
In what apparently suggests an allusion to double taxation, he said: “In today’s economy, tax is supposed to be in proportion to what you are earning, but it’s no longer so, they take more from people. However, you need to know when and how much you are paying is not subjected to the whims and caprices of government.
“The other day I travelled from Lagos to Ondo State, where some people asked me to produce evidence that I pay tax even when I pay my tax in Lagos.”
Mr. Sokenu described Tax Audit as an examination of an individual’s tax report by a relevant tax authority, whether Federal, State or Local, to ascertain compliance with applicable tax laws. He explained that the reasons for tax audit include, “the payer is always unwilling to pay or underpay because it is an encumbrance; to assist government to collect appropriate tax revenues; and to ensure that amount due are collected and remitted”.
Speaking on the Legal Perspectives, the Chartered Accountant said its efficiency and effectiveness depend on the scope and power, which entails appropriate regime of laws to penalize defaulters and a legal framework to protect tax payers and tax administrators.
Tax consultants, he said, must brace themselves professionally to protect clients and provide sound advice to limit their liability, tax wise, to what they earn.
The students, according to him, could make a success of taxation as a profession with current development in Nigeria and beyond, citing the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler as a role model.
“Prior to the President Muhammadu Buhari government, they relied more on oil as major source of income. But the crash in oil price made nonsense of the budget and also resulted in foreign exchange scarcity.
“They are now shifting to tax. Everybody must pay tax so long as you are an adult. They (the Federal Inland Revenue Service) have liaised with the Corporate Affairs Commission to give them records of all registered businesses in Nigeria.
“The man who is in charge of the FIRS is Mr. Babatunde Fowler. He was appointed based on his track record, having helped Lagos to shore up its Internally Generated Revenue from a mere N600 million to more than N20 billion,” said Sokenu.
Prodded by one of the students on how to advise a client in a situation of tax avoidance and tax evasion, Sokenu, who has led several change management and human performance initiatives, urged the students to follow their conscience in such situations.
“Anything that is ethical is your conscience. If your conscience says don’t do it, it means you’ve found another job,” he said. “In the case of tax avoidance, if your employer asks you to do it, then you have to do it because you’re not avoiding tax, you’re rearranging it to lighten the burden of tax on the organisation.”
“But evasion is complete avoidance of paying tax. Smuggling is a form of tax evasion, which is a crime,” he added.
Head of the Accounting Department, Uwalomwa Uwuigbe, an Associate Professor, expressed satisfaction that the facilitator of the seminar had done justice to the topic. He echoed Sokenu’s submission that tax is the way to go.
“We can no longer go the way we used to go, we have to diversify. Definitely there would be resistance, but we must constantly reinvent ourselves,” said Uwuigbe.