The Federal Inland Revenue Service on Monday announced plans to automate collection of Value Added Tax from operators in the nation’s lottery and gaming industry.

The Chairman, FIRS, Mr Babatunde Fowler, disclosed this in Lagos at a stakeholders’ meeting organised in conjunction with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission with lottery and gaming operators.

He said in his welcome address that the automation would enable lottery players and bettors to pay VAT on each transaction made.

“What we are trying to introduce today is aimed at improving the transparency, accountability and convenience in the payment of any taxes. We are automating tax collection in across various industries in the country,” he added

The Director-General, NLRC, Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila, said the importance of strict adherence to tax laws could not be over-emphasised in view of Nigeria’s present economic challenges.

“In the gaming industry, products and services are generally offered through agents who are commonly in direct contact with the players. The consumption of the products and services are taxable under the law,” he said.

Industry operators, however, voiced concerns over the VAT on lottery and gaming services, saying it would hurt their businesses.

The founder of NairaBET, Mr Akin Alabi, who spoke on behalf of lottery and gaming operators, faulted the mode of charging the VAT, saying it would drive customers away from operators’ platforms.

He said, “There must be another mode of collecting VAT rather than from the top level, which is on every stake. Telling operators to pay from the stakes is almost impossible because what it means is that customers will leave our platforms. So, they will start looking for companies that are not regulated where they can place their bets; they will look for foreign companies. So, it is going to ruin our business.

“Presently, I have little to lose. I am in the process of divesting all my interests in NairaBET because I just won election to the House of Representatives. But I don’t want to leave the industry in a mess; that is why I am passionate about it.”

Alabi stated that the FIRS should have consulted operators before taking the decision to impose VAT and automate its collection.

Responding, the FIRS boss, said, “Tax has to do with law and the law says that for every transaction that is VATable, five per cent should be charged. You have to be aware that we are automating collection in all industries. This is not a tax on the business, but on the bettors.

“If you carry out foreign bets and you go through your banks to make the payment, you will also be charged VAT.”

Fowler, while fielding questions from journalists on the sidelines of the event, said, “If somebody comes to bet N100, it becomes N105. I can assure you that it will not make them change their minds.”

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