The Organised Private Sector on Monday warned the government against fleecing the people and endangering productivity.
They spoke in response to the signing of the Finance Bill into law by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in Abuja.
The law heralds a new regime of Value Added Tax rate of 7.5 per cent, up from five per cent.
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association warned the government against seeing the private sector as a cash cow in its drive to increase revenue.
On the other hand, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed worry over the increase in VAT; even it said that it was inappropriate to compel loss-making firms to pay tax, no matter how little.
The Director General, NECA, Dr Timothy Olawale, noted that overburdening the private sector with taxes would further impoverish the citizens Buhari promised to take out of poverty.
He said, “The government should not see the private sector as a ‘cash cow’ in its drive to raise revenue, as it will do more harm to the already burdened private sector and further impoverish citizens that the president promised to take out of poverty.
“The common man will definitely be at the receiving end of the increase in VAT. Even if businesses are taxed more through likely illegal levies and rates outside the provisions of the law, they will naturally pass the cost to the customers whose purchasing power is already at the lowest ebb.
“The government should put mechanisms in place to eliminate leakages as a large chunk of the Internally Generated Revenue realised does not find its way into government coffers.
“They should drastically cut the cost of governance. Several aides kept at prohibitive cost are needless.”
He acknowledged that the government had made provisions in the law that were meant to benefit the masses while reforming the local tax laws in line with global best practices.
The new law amended the Petroleum Profit Tax Act, Customs and Excise Tariff Act, Company Income Tax Act, Personal Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax, Stamp Duties Act and the Capital Gains Tax.
Olawale said, “Apart from the increase in VAT, some other changes would include a situation where Nigerians who want to open or maintain accounts with the deposit money banks will not have to provide their Tax Identification Number to do so, which is commendable.
“Again, the fact that the Federal Government has raised the threshold from which stamp duty will be charged for online transactions from the current N1, 000 to N10,000.”
Director General of the LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf, said, “The increase in VAT from five per cent to 7.5 per cent amounts to additional burden on investors.
“Already businesses have been grappling with multiple taxation, high import duty, high regulatory charges, exclusion from the official forex market and high energy cost.
“It is also disturbing that in Nigeria, VAT is not treated as consumption tax. Most often it is imposed on the entire value chain of production and investment. This is why investors will worry about the review.”
The LCCI boss urged the government to scale up its commitment to the creation an enabling environment for investment, adding “this should be from the perspective of policy, regulatory and macroeconomic environment.”
Buhari had announced the signing of the bill through his verified personal twitter handle, @MBuhari.
“I am pleased to announce that this morning, I signed into the law the Finance Bill, 2019,” he tweeted.
The finance bill provides several revenue windows for the Federal Government to source funds, especially for the immediate financing of the 2020 budget.