ETHICS OF TAX EVASION PERCEPTUAL EVIDENCE FROM NIGERIA
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The word tax first appeared in the English language only in the 14th century, it is derived from the Latin word taxare, which means to “Assess” before that, English used the related word task derived from old French, for a while task and tax were both in common use, the first requiring labour, and the second money. In the Stone Age, tax was collected in Nigeria long before the coming of Europeans; it was collected by the local Chief for the purpose of administration and defense. Every one was expected to give part of his or her proceeds from cultivation of land to the state, those who were not cultivating were required to give their human (labour) sources for public work such as clearing the bush, digging the pit latrine, wells etc. for the benefit of the community, as a whole. Failure to render such services usually resulted in loss of property which might be reclaimed after payment. With the coming of the Europeans, taxes were collected from individuals through local chief in 1964; a legislative council was set for the whole country which obliged the regional council with a large measure of financial responsibility. After independence, state government were to fine out other sources of generating revenue which is today known as pay as you earn (PAYE). Tax is a levy imposed by the federal board of Inland Revenue (federal government) on the chargeable income generated by individuals, organizations and other corporate bodies for the betterment of the society as a whole. Taxation is the act of taxing, it is also the amount assessed as a tax, it is revenue raised from taxes. Taxation is the means of progress through which the government generate revenue for national development through the contribution by the citizens. According to Ogundele (1999) taxation is defined as a process or machinery by which communities or group of persons are made to contribute in some agreed amount of money for the propose of the administration and development of the society. It can be inferred that the payment of tax will in turn be beneficial to the entire community of they pay their tax properly. Tax constituted an important source of revenue to the government of any country both direct and indirect taxes that are collected by the government inform of income tax, excise duty, import and export duties, purchase and sales tax and so on help the government to generate a lot of revenue for the smooth administration of a nation. There are two elements in every form of taxation and that is the base and rate element. The tax base is the object which is taxed or a measure of the private sector income or wealth that can be taxed. The tax rate is the percentage of the measured amount taken from the tax base. As earlier stated, taxation is one of the most important and major source of government revenue, in this case the money realized from is used to provide social goods and services so that both the rich and the poor will have equal chance of making use of them through the provision of social amenities such as good roads, electricity, pipe borne water, hospitals welfare organization, schools and so on. In spite of these benefits from tax, most people still run away from tax indulging themselves in what is called tax evasion and avoidance. Attempt to avoid some portion of inability or not to pay tax will affect the revenue generation of the government and that is the most condition why government frowns at the issue of tax evasion and uses its authority to enforce compliance. But in spite of the frown by the government of Nigeria, there have not been adequate and sincere efforts towards enforcing the tax evaders on the need for them to pay their tax instead, they concentrated on the revenue from oil sector, while overlooking the taxes on agriculture which is supposed to yield revenue to the country as a whole.
Arowomole and Oluwalayode (2006:39) define tax evasion as a deliberate act on the part of the tax payer to reduce their tax liability through illegal means or an attempt not to pay tax due. While tax avoidance is defined as a legal way by which a taxpayer reduces his or her tax liabilities. Tax evasion is considered as a criminal offence.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM The researcher has observed that tax evasion has become rampant in Akwa Ibom state, individuals and firm manover or try to evade paying tax based on their perceptions of tax. The researcher has through this investigation observed that most people formulate their tax in order to underpay tax while some companies and individuals as well smuggle goods into the country in order to evade tax payment. Most people see tax paying as government exploiting them while some try to bribe government officials in order that they may evade tax payment. It has been observed to that most people fail to register their company or goods in order to equally avoid tax payment. This is as a result of ignorance or an attempt to cheat the government.
Finally, it has been observed by the researcher that as tax payment is one of the ways government generate revenues, tax evasion would only trigger off lack of revenue for development and tax evasion is detrimental to the government. Hence, the decision of the researcher is to investigate the stated problem, the reason why individuals and firms indulge in tax evasion and to offer suggestion for solving the problem.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY i. To investigate the perception of tax payers to the payment of tax on ethical reasons. ii. To identify specific key areas that tax payer link to tax evasion. iii. To examine the effect of perceived corruption in government on tax evasion.
iv. To state the seriousness of tax evasion according to the Nigerian constitution.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS i. Is tax evasion ethically justifiable? ii. What are the reasons for tax evasion? iii. What is the attitude of tax payer when government is perceived to be corrupt?
iv. What is the most rampant ethical justification for tax evasion?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS Because of the above research questions, the following hypothesis was formulated; i. Tax evasion is not ethically justifiable Tax evasion is ethically justifiable ii. There is no reason for tax evasion There are reasons for tax evasion iii. There is no rampant ethical justification for tax evasion
There is rampant ethical justification for tax evasion
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY This research work would be referred to various tax authorities, the federal board of Inland Revenue, local government revenue committee as well as their tax officials who are responsible of collecting tax on individuals or corporate bodies, it gives them insight on how to improve the tax administration. The research would also help the professional bodies like the chartered institute of taxation of Nigeria and the institute of chattered accountant of Nigeria as well as the members to see the areas of deficiency on tax collection and call for improvement
in tax revenue. This research would also be relevant to the future researchers and students of economics, business administration, accounting and other social and management sciences as well as the legislations which will also benefit immensely from this research because it will form basis of tax policy formation, implementation and administration.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research is premised on obtaining evidence on the ethics of tax evasion, by obtaining responses from business owners, professional bodies, tax officials, the federal board of inland revenue, organizations and others in Akwa Ibom state, thus the study was restricted to some selected local governments in Akwa Ibom state.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS TAX EVASION: An illegal practice where a person, organization or corporation intentionally avoid paying his or her true tax liability.
TAX ETHICS: It is the rule and regulations governing or guiding the payment of tax.