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Friday, 01 March 2024 15:43

Igbo traders close shops over alleged intimidation, over-taxation

Igbo traders close shops over alleged intimidation, over-taxation in Kwara


 

Igbo traders and businessmen in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, under the aegis of the Igbo Traders Association, closed their shops on Friday in protest against alleged intimidation and overtaxation of their businesses by the state revenue agency, the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS).

The Tribune newspapers gathered that the development left many traders and businessmen stranded in such locations as Oko Erin, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, and the General Hospital area, among other places in the state capital.

The Igbo traders said that the revenue agency stormed their shopping complexes at about 10:00 am with a revenue mobile court to prosecute them and lock up their business premises without being represented.

The people, who said that they are not indebted to the revenue agency, added that they are up to date in payment of their taxes and rates, describing the action of the revenue agency as unfair.

The businessmen also appealed to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to assist with a tax waiver or tax holiday, considering the current economic hardship in the country. They said that many of their members stock their shops with goods received on credit.

The coordinator of the 22 zonal chairmen of Igbo traders associations in Kwara state, who is also the chairman of the building materials association in Surulere zone, Kwara state, Chief Aloysius Nwora, said that the tax office wanted to start collecting tax from individual members against an existing agreement with the agency to get the tax collectively.

Also speaking, the first vice president of the Igbo Traders Association, Chief Nathaniel Nwogu, led other leaders and members of the association to the revenue court premises and state House of Assembly to register their grievances. He said that some of the business premises locked up deals in perishable goods.

Chief Nwora, who suggested a roundtable discussion among representatives of the revenue agency, the state government, and the leadership of the Igbo Traders Association for an amicable solution, said that there would not be business growth and development in any unfriendly environment.

“For years, we’ve had this arrangement with the state tax office to collect our taxes collectively and submit them to them. In that way, we as a union have been able to identify our members who do not even have shops, or those who are three or four in a shop, and submit them to the tax office.

“Once we submit that money, the tax office will issue receipts based on the individual names we submit to them. The taxes are in categories of N7,000, N14,000, N25000, and N45,000 like that annually.

This continued until last year, when our members started to receive letters individually demanding another tax ranging from N700,000 to N1.5 million, etc. Most of the people written to had already paid with their receipts from the tax office. Some of us have tax clearance certificates at three-year intervals.

“When they tell the staff of the tax office that they have paid, the staff told them to subtract what they’ve paid before from the new bill they gave us, thereby calculating, like tax, the previous 10 years of outrageous sums like N10 million, N15 million, etc.

We went with our lawyers to explain to them that we’re only owing 2023 tax, which was supposed to be paid in November last year based on our agreement with them, and which we’re already gathering because we closed our meeting in November and opened it in February this year.

“Unfortunately, they wrote our members to pay N9.7 million within three days, threatening that if they fail to do so, they’ll bring a mobile court, judge him, and prosecute him in his shop. Most of the owners of the affected shops are not even around. They refused to listen to pleas from shop assistants and locked up the shops. That’s why all members locked all their shops in solidarity to say we’re not okay with the verdict passed by the court.

“There is a special court for tax and not a mobile court. We even have cases there,” he said.

Responding to the allegations, the Corporate Affairs Department of the KWIRS, on behalf of the executive chairman, Shade Omoniyi, said that the revenue agency conducted the mobile court on Friday to prosecute recalcitrant taxpayers in the state to ensure tax compliance.

“As part of efforts to ensure tax compliance by residents and business owners in Kwara State, the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KW-IRS) conducted a mobile court within some business premises in Ilorin today, March 1, 2024, to prosecute three recalcitrant high-net-worth business owners who hide under associations to pay lesser taxes than what is due.

“Having exhausted all necessary measures to ensure that taxpayers remit the appropriate taxes due to the state government without any positive results, KW-IRS resorted to enforcement on the recalcitrant taxpayers in the early hours of Friday as provided under the relevant state law.

“Speaking during the legal action at their respective business premises, the magistrate pronounced that the business facilities be sealed following the evidence before the mobile court that the accused taxpayers defaulted in exercising their civic obligations.

“Taxpayers are enjoined to pay their tax liabilities as and when due to avoid being caught on the wrong side of the law.”

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