July 16, 2015
The newly appointed Board of Appellate Commissioners led by Chairperson, James Momodu Fornah-Sesay Esq., has paid a courtesy call on the Commissioner-General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), Madam Haja Kallah-Kamara.
According to Mr. Fornah-Sesay, the Income Tax Board of Appellate Commissioners is an independent body from the NRA which gets its mandate from the Income Tax Act, 2000 as amended. He said the Board of Appellate completes the structure in tax governance by mediating on disputes between the NRA and the taxpayers.
He however noted that the Commission’s influence in the country’s tax system has been minimal and vowed to change its image through extensive sensitization campaigns to ensure that taxpayers are aware of the existence, functions and independence of the Board.
In her response, the Commissioner-General of NRA, Madam Haja Kallah-Kamara, warmly welcomed the Appellate Commissioners, noting that the lack of a vibrant Appellate Commission creates a gap in the tax system, which she hoped the new commission will fill up. She said the Authority cannot be seen to be both referee and player, adding that taxpayers need to feel confident that an independent body exists to mediate on objection decisions with respect to tax obligations and assessments.
Madam Kallah-Kamara told the Commissioners that as arbitrators, they must be knowledgeable on tax matters and be sensitized about what the job entails. To this effect, she said the NRA will endeavour to organize a workshop where copies of relevant tax laws, especially the Income Tax Act, would be made available to the Commissioners.
PART XVII of the Income Tax Act talks about objections and appeals. Accordingly, there are three stages of appeal available to a taxpayer dissatisfied with a tax assessment. Firstly, according to Section 137(1) of the Income Tax Act 2000, any taxpayer who is dissatisfied with an assessment may file an objection to the Commissioner-General within 30 days of service of the notice of assessment. Section 137(2) further adds that the objection should be in writing and grounds upon which the objection is made, facts or any point of law at issue and the amount which the taxpayer believes he/she should be assessed must be specified.
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In considering the objection, the Commissioner-General may allow the objection in whole or in part and amend the assessment accordingly or disallow the objection according to Section 137(3) and (4) of the Income Tax Act.
Secondly, Sections 138-142 of the Income Tax Act 2000 make mention of the establishment of a body known as the ‘Income Tax Board of Appellate Commissioners’. According to Section 140(1), the Board shall hear and determine appeals from taxpayers with respect to objection decisions. Section 141(3) adds that the Board, in carrying out its functions, shall have the powers of the High Court in respect of summoning witnesses, compelling the production of documents, the examination of witnesses abroad and for contempt.
According to Section 143(4), in deciding an appeal, the Board of Appellate may make an order affirming, reducing, increasing or varying the assessment under appeal; or remitting the assessment for reconsideration by the Commissioner in accordance with the directions or recommendations of the Board.
Thirdly, a dissatisfied taxpayer can appeal to the High Court. According to Section 144 of the Income Tax Act 2000 as amended, a party to a proceeding before the Board who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Board may, within sixty days of the decision, appeal to the High Court.