The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has sealed at least 13 firms in Abia state over tax defaults.
An enforcement team of the agency led by Ruth Mandeun stormed Umuahia, the state capital, on Wednesday with court warrants against defaulting firms.
The task force had within two days of its operations in Umuahia metropolis, sealed 13 firms for default on tax arrears running into millions of naira.
Some of the affected firms include Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Guest House, and the university’s petrol station for owing N3.5m income and value added tax from 2013 to 2016; De-Latino Concert Ltd, N6,677,221; and Hotel Macbeck Ltd, N273,313.
Others are Ohama Suites Ltd, N1,153,500; Onyems Classic Pharmacy, N400,000; Otubraco Nig. Ltd, N540,437; and Ziggi Services Ltd for defaulting in payment of N250,000 VAT and income tax for 2016.
Also, sealed were Canedot Maintenance Ltd with tax liabilities of N250,000, being value added tax for 2016; and a construction giant – Mentors & Partners ltd for a whopping N308,937,063, being company income tax and educational tax from 2013 to 2017.
Leader of the task force, Manduen said nine firms were sealed on the first day but three others were later unsealed after the defaulters paid their tax arrears.
She decried the hostile attitude of some firms towards members of the task force during the enforcement exercise on Wednesday.
Manduen expressed sadness that one man who claimed to be a magistrate obstructed their operation at one of the places they visited and tried to incite the crowd against members of the team.
She wondered why an acclaimed magistrate would abandon his court to defend a client, saying that such attitude was unbecoming.
The task force leader, however, expressed satisfaction at the compliance level of defaulters on the second day of the operation, saying that a number of them had opted to clear their liabilities instead of having their business premises sealed up.
She restated the commitment of the FIRS under the leadership of Tunde Fowler, its chairman, to recover all tax arrears from every defaulter.
“We are ready to collect every kobo owed FIRS by tax defaulters in Abia state,” she said.
Mandeun appealed to tax payers not to wait until their businesses were shut down before they make their payments to avoid embarrassments.
Later in an interview, one of the defaulters, De- Latino concert Ltd, accused FIRS of over taxing the firm, arguing that it only started operations in late 2013 and ought to have enjoyed six months of tax holiday.
The manager of the firm who pleaded for anonymity said the firm was taxed N750,000 in 2016 out of which it made a deposit of N250,000 wondering how FIRS arrived at the over N6 million tax arrears to its debit.
Confirming an improvement in compliance level since the task force arrived in the state, Felix Akaeze, FIRS controller in charge of Umuahia, said more defaulters were now beginning to pay their arrears.
Akaeze who said Umuahia has a monthly target of N19 million said only about N6 million monthly average was recorded three years ago.
He, however, added that there had been significant improvement since he took over in November 2016, but regretted that tax payers in the zone were reluctant to pay their taxes without enforcement.