The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) collected N4.012 trillion in three quarters (January-September), its Executive Chairman, Tunde Fowler, said on Thursday.

He told the Senate Committee on Appropriations that the amount is N77.89 billion above the N3.941 trillion collected between January and September 2018.

The amount represents 60.77 per cent of FIRS’ N8.8 trillion target for this year.

Fowler said he was optimistic that FIRS would do better than the N5.3 trillion it collected last year.

Fowler told the Senators that, so far, FIRS has collected N4.012 trillion between January and September, which is 61 per cent of the total target for the period as against N3.941 trillion collection for the corresponding period in 2018.

This, he said, translates to an increase of N71 billion.

Full-year tax revenue collection in 2018 was N5.320 trillion, which represents 78.86 per cent collection performance for the period.

Fowler said: “Our budget for 2019 was raised by N2.02 trillion, representing 30.4 per cent increase over the 2018 budget i.e. N6.747 trillion in 2018 to N8.8 trillion in 2019.

“Our total tax collection to date represents 78.2 per cent achievement of the corresponding budget of 2018. Based on the collection, we expect the total collection to equal N5.4 trillion by the end of 2019.

“Our drive towards developing more sustainable sources of tax revenue by shifting the focus from oil revenue to non-oil is also yielding positive results.

“Non-oil revenue collection for January to September 2019 stands at N2.423 trillion, representing 72 per cent achievement of the non-oil target for the period.

“Oil revenue collection of N1.588 trillion represents 49 per cent achievement to target for the period.

“The total collection contribution in 2019 shows a percentage ratio of 61 per cent for non-oil revenue to 39 per cent for oil revenue.

“Non-oil collection for January to September 2019 grew by 13 per cent over the non-oil collection for the corresponding period in 2018.”

The FIRS Chairman listed the strategies being implemented towards attaining the N8.8 Trillion target.

They include Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Initiatives, compliance and enforcement initiatives, international tax initiatives, tax amnesty programme and expansion of taxpayer database and other Initiatives.

He urged the lawmakers to pass legislation that will send tax evaders to jail.

According to him, such a law would make over 40,000 tax-evasive individuals and businesses whose turnover is between N100 million and N1billion to pay taxes.

Fowler said: “Just a little over 3,000 of the taxpayers who have a lien on their accounts have paid N103 billion. In Nigeria, if you dare to pass laws that will send tax defaulters to jail, the 40,000 tax defaulters will pay.

“In terms of whether revenues cannot be generated by enforcement, we have gone over various programmes to bring people into the tax net.

“In 2016, there was a tax amnesty in which 5000 companies came through and paid N92 billion within 45 days. Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) was also N90 billion. And it took one year.

“The question I’d like to ask you is: can N90billion make a difference in a developed or even a developing country? It will make a lot of difference.

“These are businesses or individuals that have income, but had refused to pay taxes. Currently, we have close to 40, 000 of those accounts under lien for which they have not paid any taxes.

“I believe that this is a crime and I think we are at that point now where we have no choice than to enforce payment. I did highlight earlier that 3,000 of those accounts paid N102billion.

“I think that we have reached that stage where the society should not condone those among us who have the opportunity and privilege to have a job or to earn profits and also accept them not to pay taxes to contribute to the society.”