HURIWA raises alarm as FIRS demands N70m tax from rights group

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has slammed the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS for demanding that the group pay N70 million income taxes.

DAILY POST reports that the FIRS, in a letter dated May 11, 2021, had urged HURIWA to remit its income taxes since the company was registered, stressing that failure to comply with the directive within seven days would attract a penalty.

Part of the letter reads: “You may refer to section 55(1) which states ‘Every company including a company granted exemption from incorporation shall, whether or not a company is liable to pay tax under this Act for a year of assessment, with or without notice from the Service, file a self-assessment return with the Service in the prescribed form at least once a year……” also note that Section 55(3) prescribes the amount payable as penalty for late filing.

“Section 15 of the Value Added Tax Act (VATA) explains the duty of a taxable person to render returns, while Section 35 of the same Act which states “A taxable person who fails to submit returns to the Board is liable to a fine of #5,000 for every month in which the failure continues” prescribes penalty for late filing.

“This provision of section 35 is applicable till the 2018 year-end because 2019 Finance Act reviewed the above Section with new applicable rates for the first month of default at #50,000 and #25,000 for every month in which the default continues.

“Note that the penalties for Companies Income Tax (CIT) has been computed and amounts to Five Million Six Hundred and Fifty-Five Thousand naira (# 5,655,000), whereas the penalty for Value Added Tax (VAT) is Sixty Nine Million Two Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira (#69,280,000). You are advised to pay immediately to avoid further measures to enforce compliance as prescribed in the Tax laws.

“In light of the above, you are advised to take steps to regularize your registration and file the returns within 7 days of receipt of this letter

However, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, made available to DAILY POST on Sunday, HURIWA alleged that the demand was due to its consistent criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s “maladministration”.

According to HURIWA, “The consistency in our social justice advocacy campaigns is the reason for this latest attempt to silence our independent voice.

“How can the FIRS that has no power of oversight over CSOs be seen demanding payment of COMPANY’S INCOME TAX from a body that the CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION directed by law not to ever engage in business or any profitable venture? This is insanity taken too far by the FIRS and our legal people will be following up soon on this madness of government rascality.

“This is an attempt to muzzle free speech because on many occasions, many prominent federal government officers had approached HURIWA’s national coordinator to slow down on our criticisms of the failures of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Because they failed to get us to compromise and be silent, the FIRS think it can use an illegal methodology to intimidate, harass and force us into silence. Aluta continua, Victoria asserta. We will neither be cowed or silenced by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.”

The statement revealed that the group alongside other prominent organizations had condemned the alleged N1.4bn budget for meals and refreshments by the Federal Inland Revenue Service in the 2021 fiscal year.

It stated that some groups, including Transparency International and the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria accused the tax agency of insensitivity and misplacement of priority.