On December 5 and 6th, members and stakeholders of the Nigerian Tax Research Network are gathered in Abuja for the Network’s third annual meeting on the theme “Revenue challenges online and offline: Bridging the digital divide in an analogue economy.”

The theme of the meeting touches on several important issues. First is the ongoing work on taxing the digitalised economy, precipitated by the challenges of taxing giant digital companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and in which Nigeria is participating via the Inclusive Framework process led by the OECD. Second is the potential for digital technologies to improve the effectiveness of tax administration and facilitate tax compliance, by for example enabling online registration, filling, and payment of taxes. However, the theme also acknowledges the fact that much of the economy in Nigeria is not digital, and there are issues of access, with about a fifth of adults in Nigeria who are not literate, and only about 40% of Nigerians are internet users, and less than a third are smartphone users.

So although there is a great deal of optimism about the potential of digital technologies for taxation, and contentious debates about how to reform the international tax system to make it fit for the 21st century, there are also real cost-benefit tensions and different kinds of constraints to examine in the Nigerian context. The conference will cover these issues with five research and policy panels.

As the Chair of the NTRN and former head of FIRS, Mrs Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru said, “I hope that over the course of this conference, we can discuss both the challenges that we need to address as well as the opportunities that should be seized when it comes to digital technologies and taxation.”

The mission of the Nigerian Tax Research Network (NTRN) is to enhance the generation and exchange of tax knowledge. The NTRN is coordinated by the International Centre for Tax and Development and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while the event is hosted by the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Preceding the conference, the first session of what will be a year-long course on policy-oriented tax research was held at the FIRS Training School, with 16 Nigerian participants, and 5 participants from the Ethiopian Tax Research Network. As Dr Olly Owen, the Research Coordinator of the NTRN says, “As Nigeria and Ethiopia are two of the continent’s biggest economies that are also federal states, there is much to be learned by sharing experiences and lessons between these two sister research networks.”

The keynote address was delivered by the Executive Chairman of FIRS Dr Babatunde Fowler. As he said, “I personally take this annual conference as an important event. I wish to reiterate FIRS’ commitment to the support and furtherance of research and aligned activities, with the capacity to stimulate more effective tax administration and economic development. As the co-chair of the committee at the UN on taxing the digital economy, I look forward to the outcome of the discussions on these important issues.”

See the full conference programme here.

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