The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) will address the problem of multiple taxation and the challenges it poses to the business environment.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made this known, yesterday, in Abuja, at the First Abuja Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Conference and Exhibition 2021.

The conference, which was organised by the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), was aimed at providing solution strategies for resolving tax, regulatory, packaging and logistic challenges facing Nigerian SMEs.

Osinbajo, represented by Ambassador Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, said government is focused on improving Ease of Doing Business and encouraging tax and fiscal responsibility.

The Vice President noted that the problem of taxation on the growth of SMEs in the country is exacerbated by lack of reliable data for statistical analysis. According to him, the mortality rates of SMEs are very high, and among the factors responsible for this are tax related issues.

He said it was on the above premise that the government, through the Finance Act 2019 and 2020, amended various tax and fiscal legislations to align Nigerian business environment with global standards.

“One of such amendments is the categorisation of companies into small, medium, and large companies, based on annual gross turnover as seen in the Finance Act 2019. The Act also has, as one of its strategic objectives, support to small businesses, in line with the Ease of Doing Business reforms.

“However, some of the specific challenges related to taxation are multiple taxation at the national and sub-national levels, non-clarity on the procedure and amount to pay and non-friendly tax administrators,” he said.

For SMEs to sustain their role of contributing to the mainstream economy, Osinbajo said they must implement effective strategies in their business operations, inclusive of logistics. He said the function of logistics is important to SMEs because it is the quintessence of the organisation’s relationship with suppliers and customers.

He noted some challenges related to logistics as high transportation costs, lack of quality delivery service and infrastructure. He said the challenges related to packaging are non-availability of quality materials, high cost of materials and lack of inbuilt culture of packaging. To resolve some of these challenges, he said specific actions must be put in place to overcome them.

These include sensitisation and awareness creation, general capacity building and streamlining of taxes across the national and sub-national levels.

He listed others as implementation of relevant sections of the Finance Acts, specific technical training on packaging and logistics, sharing of knowledge and peer review with SMEs in other jurisdictions. He also called for strict observance of international standards, adding that regulatory authorities must develop friendly criteria for SMEs.

Osinbajo noted that the conference is apt, in view of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), because several African countries have the scale to compete with Nigerian businesses in terms of productive capacity, packaging, exports and logistics.

He said SMEs should adapt to the competition created by AfCFTA and position themselves to take advantage of the single market of 1.2 billion people and a cumulative GDP of over $3.4 trillion.

Osinbajo appreciated contributions of MSMEs to Nigeria’s economy, widely reported to have recorded over 41 million participating enterprises, accounting for about 76 per cent of the nation’s labour force and 50 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He said it was against this background that the Federal Government reinvigorated its commitment and interest in repositioning and investing in the sector for efficiency, growth and development.

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