The desire to build a civilized country with a strong and sound economy is the desire of every Country, including Nigeria. Tax payment is the demonstration of such a desire, although some income earners see it as a means of exploitation by the government. Tax payment is a voluntarily contribution imposed by the Government on personal income earners, companies, investors, exporters, importers etc. revenue realized from taxation is a major source of revenue to the Government of Nigeria, and as such is an important tool used in the development of Nigeria and her economy. A country’s tax policies and systems are greatly related with business ventures in that country. An economy that enacts favorable and progressive tax laws and policies will definitely breed successful and finance-healthy business organizations. Once businesses flourish, the economy flourishes as well, as there is no quicker way of stirring the affairs of an economy without the help of organizations that move services, goods, money and investments from those with surplus to those with deficit; those with marketable ideas/output to those who need these ideas and products. In essence, businesses and tax policies greatly depend on one another for survival. If one is greatly affected, the other follows suite.
1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Nigerian Tax System has undergone significant changes in recent times. With the help of various studies and research done by tax experts, tax laws are being reviewed with the aim of repelling obsolete provisions and simplifying the main ones. Under current Nigerian law, taxation is enforced by the 3 tiers of Government, i.e. Federal, State, and Local Government with each having its sphere clearly spelt out in the Taxes and Levies (approved list for Collection) Small businesses are generally recognized as important drivers of economic success. They are a key ingredient in the “ecology of firms” in a healthy economy, as job creators, sales generators and a source of tax/fiscal revenue. In Nigeria the importance of small business as a creator of jobs, particularly for those with a low skills level, is widely recognized. Small, medium and micro-enterprises (“SMMEs”) contribute 36.1% of the country’s gross domestic product (“GDP”) and employ 68.2% of the workforce in the private sector. In the agriculture, construction and retail sectors, SMEs employ more than 80% of the total workforce. Over the last few years, the growth in employment by SMMEs has exceeded the growth in their contribution to GDP, highlighting the job creation potential of this sector of the economy.
Regulations and red tape are reported as one of the constraints to the expansion of businesses both in Nigeria and internationally. International research in this field shows that tax regulatory compliance costs are a significant portion of the total regulatory cost. Several other patterns emerged from the various local and international studies performed, among the most important being that tax compliance costs comprise a much larger proportion of total compliance costs for smaller firms. Furthermore, various research has suggested that any effective approach to assist small business requires both policy and administration model adjustments in order to be effective. The 2005 year, therefore, saw the beginning of a process of structural change that was intended to build a positive tax compliance climate in Nigeria. This report is focused on the survey of the compliance experience of professional accountants and bookkeepers (referred to as “tax practitioners” for the purposes of this document) in respect of their small business clients in Nigeria. It will be complemented by two related surveys, one of small businesses that are registered with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), regarding their time and cost requirements for tax compliance, and one of informal businesses, regarding their perceptions about tax compliance.
1.2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Small and medium enterprises (Small businesses) form the core of majority of the world’s economies. A study carried out by the Federal Office of Statistics shows that in Nigeria, small and medium enterprises make up 97% of the economy (Ariyo, 2005). However, the mortality rate of these small firms is very high. According to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) Nigeria, 80% of SMALL BUSINESSES die before their 5th anniversary. Among the factors responsible for these untimely close-ups are tax related issues, ranging from multiple taxations to enormous tax burdens etc. In many government policies, small and medium enterprises are usually viewed and treated in the same light as large corporations. However, their size and nature makes them unique. Therefore, in dealing with small and medium enterprises, these unique qualities need to be considered. In levying of taxes for these enterprises in particular, issues that need to be considered are how these tax policies can be designed to bolster the growth of Small businesses and the most effective ways to administer them. The importance of Small businesses as a mechanism of economic growth and development is often ignored. They are perceived as minute establishments that have minimal effect on the state of the economy.
However, if conducive environment is created for these Small businesses to grow through proper regulation, the SME sector has the highest propensity to transform our economy. In the same light, taxes are important for the government as they are the major source of funds for government expenditure. Income obtained from taxation of individuals and businesses are used to run governments as well as provide infrastructure such as good roads, water supply, and electricity which are essential for the smooth running of these businesses that are mainly manufacturing companies and as such rely on these commodities to survive. Tax burden is a major problem in Nigeria as many business organizations are not favored by the tax systems and policies in place. Some businesses are already collapsing; while majority are still struggling to meet up with high tax rates to ensure their businesses still exist. According to a study conducted by Bateman (2007), it was reported in a survey that 90% of business owners admitted that taxes were a huge constraints to their businesses, as they claim taxes are high and do not allow new businesses to cover up initial cost.