The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has written to banks, directing them to lift the lien on alleged tax defaulters’ bank accounts for 30 days.
The directive, which takes immediate effect, was contained in a letter from Tunde Fowler, the FIRS chairman, to bank managing directors.
The FIRS explained that it issued the directive because of the large number of taxpayers who have besieged its offices in their bid to regularise their tax positions and the inconveniences they are going through.
In September 2018, Fowler said the service was going after 6,772 tax defaulters, stating that they would have their account frozen till they pay due taxes.
“So, all these ones of TIN and no pay and no TIN and no pay, to the total of 6772 will have their accounts frozen or put under substitution pending when they come forward,” Fowler had said.
KPMG, one of the Big Four auditors in the world, said on Thursday that the FIRS has gone draconian by giving fiats to banks to freeze accounts of suspected tax defaulters.
KPMG said “nothing in the CITA or FIRSEA authorises the FIRS to impose a freeze order on a taxpayer’s bank account beyond the amount of tax proven to be due and payable by that taxpayer”.
It added that the move was in contravention of CITA, and breaches the confidentiality between the banks and their clients.
“Generally, a bank has a fiduciary obligation to maintain the confidentiality of its customers and their transactions, and to prevent third-party access to the customers’ account information,” KPMG had said.