Nigeria’s government must improve tax collection because revenue is lower than the minimum amount required for the state to play an enabling role in the economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) official has said. The IMF Mission Chief to Nigeria, Jesmin Rahman, who said this on a virtual call monitored by Bloomberg, said: “Nigeria has one of the lowest revenue levels globally and much lower than peers in sub-Saharan Africa and other oil exporters.” Raising taxes at this time is inappropriate due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government needs to play a supportive role until the current crisis ends, when mobilizing domestic revenue will be a key pillar of macroeconomic sustainability, she said. Rahman said: “Before you go about raising taxes, we need to first make sure that we collect everything that is collectible. At the moment, Nigeria has a very low tax efficiency rate.” The IMF urged Nigeria to increase its comparatively low value-added tax rate once the crisis passes, derive new excise duties and overhaul its oil and gas sector.
To increase revenue and make tax collection efficient, Nigeria has to improve its audit capacity and update its tax registry, she said. While the lender rates Nigerian debt as sustainable, the level has gone up quickly and should be monitored closely. Debt servicing is “worrisome” because it’s expected to gulp down most of government revenue this year, she said. “Even though the debt level itself is not a concern for sustainability, its servicing capacity is severely constrained and requires a close watch,” Rahman said.