1. Was taxation a conscious career choice for you or did it ‘call’ you?
No, taxation wasn’t a first-choice career for me. As a matter of fact, I started my professional career as an external auditor and a financial advisory consultant. I practiced as an auditor for about three (3) years before I had my first shot at taxation. But the experience has been quite interesting.
2. What challenges did you face on your career path?
My professional career over the last eleven (11) years has come with mixed feelings. But I take solace in the fact that I am living my dream, hence I try to enjoy every moment of it. At the moment, the Nigerian tax system is evolving and so many reactions are expected from different stakeholders. Such reactions would be dependent on the experience of the affected stakeholders. For instance, many individuals do not see the need to pay taxes due to the attitude of managers of our collective resources. The debate on which should come first between the “chicken and the egg” will continue to exist in this part of the world. So, consultants like me face daily challenges trying to convince taxpayers to pay and declare the correct taxes. When you compare this situation to what is obtainable in countries like the United Kingdom where there is a working system, you will definitely agree with me that convincing taxpayers to part with their resources is indeed the mother of all challenges in this career.
3. Are they over now or are there still challenges?
The challenges are not expected to vanish anytime soon. However, taxpayers are hoping that the judiciary which many consider to be the last hope of the common man will continue to live up to expectations. Recently, there have been landmark judgments by tax appeal tribunals which have powers of certain level of courts in Nigeria. For instance, a recent judgment delivered by the Tax Appeal Tribunal in Lagos on 18th June 2019, in the case of Nexen Petroleum Nigeria Limited and Lagos State Internal Revenue Service on the validity of voluntary pension contribution before determining the Pay-As-You Earn (PAYE) tax on employees’ emoluments has further strengthened the taxpayers belief in the Nigerian judicial system. But the fact remains that taxpayers’ conviction on doing the right thing would further be strengthened by government’s honesty in public wealth management.
4. In the era of seeming specialization, what advice do you have for people looking towards starting a career in taxation?
I have mentioned earlier that the Nigerian tax system is evolving. In any evolving system, therefore, smart people identify the opportunities embedded therein. Taxation in Nigeria is the “new black gold” (that is, oil), hence I will be willing to mentor anyone who is interested in this career path. My advice to anyone who intends to start a career in taxation is to look for a mentor who will be able to guide him or her on this beautiful journey.
5. What is your definition of a tax expert or someone well rounded in tax? Does this take a defined number of years or it depends on circumstances?
Anyone who wishes to be known as a tax expert would definitely need to display an extraordinary capacity in this area of practice. But if you consider just the number of years, I would rather refer to such persons as veterans in tax practice and not tax experts. There is a big difference between the two.
6. What has been your wildest/ craziest experience as a tax practitioner?
There are many wild experiences, but my wildest would be having to sustain a particular line of argument on the same subject, with the same tax authority, and for different clients. It could be messy sometimes. For instance, the argument of whether value added tax should be payable on cash or accrual basis.
7. If there was anything in the tax space you wish you did, or didn’t do, what would it be?
The world is already a global community, so I wish I could be more active in the social media space discussing the subject of taxation.
Olufemi Idowu is a Manager in the tax advisory and regulatory services of Pedabo Professional Services. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Lagos State University, and an alumnus of the prestigious Lagos Business School.
He has over 11 years’ experience as an accountant and tax consultant. He started his career in Olabisi Onabanjo University as an Assistant Executive Officer (Accounts) in 2007. In 2008, he joined the audit and assurance services of TAC Professional Services (Chartered Accountants). During this period, he led different teams on various statutory audit, process review, fraud audit, and accounting engagements. He joined the tax advisory and regulatory services of Pedabo in January 2012. Since then, he has been involved in providing tax compliance management, tax advisory, and tax audit management services to clients in the Financial Service, Power, Oil and Gas, Manufacturing and Telecommunications industries amongst others. Over the course of his career in taxation, he has assisted numerous companies in managing their tax affairs.