Women entrepreneurs in Nigeria face different types of hurdles which they often negotiate on their way to success. Despite these obstacles, they are thriving in their businesses and contributing their quota to both family and economic growth.
One of the major challenges Small and Medium Scale Enterprises face is that of multiple taxation. Operators of these SMEs in which women are the majority have at one time or another lamented the indiscriminate imposition of taxes by the three tiers of government and other agencies. The Federal Government has not been able to successfully tackle the issue, thereby forcing most of these businesses to shut down.
In many developed countries, SMEs are being exempted from paying taxes through tax holidays for a couple of years to enable the business grow, the case is different in Nigeria.
Sometime last year, the African Women Entrepreneur (AWP) Network convened a roundtable of young women entrepreneurs in Lagos, Nigeria, to discuss some of the challenges they face.
These women identified five key areas that need urgent attention of policy makers to systematically transform the environment for small businesses as well as help to reduce the cost associated with doing business in Nigeria.
Among the identified problems is the issue of tax credits and incentives to support small businesses. This they said may help to reduce the cost of operating a business in Nigeria. Each state in this emerging economy should have an entrepreneurial incentive program. Various tax credits and business incentives should be provided at the local, state, and federal levels. These women suggest that policy makers should have a dedicated personnel or agency to identify the necessary tax incentives and help entrepreneurs navigate through the process of applying.
Women, especially those in the informal sector are said to often bear the brunt of this problem of taxes due to the ignorance of their tax obligations and the amount expected to be paid.
Ignorance of tax obligations, particularly in the informal sector, is one of the challenges militating against business success, Ife Adedapo of APW said.
“Inadequate knowledge of tax and levies obligations by business managers, especially those in the informal sector, has left some of them at the mercy of people who pose as tax officials and exploit them.”
It has been learnt that most tax collectors play on the ignorance of most business owners and impose exorbitant taxes and levies on their businesses.
Speaking at a tax sensitisation forum recently, the President, Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NECA), Mrs. Lola Okanlawon said that a higher percentage of women entrepreneurs were in the informal sector and as a result, she advocated a gender desk in the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service so that businesses could be conducted with ease and tax payment stress-free.
Some of the business woman who spoke to our correspondents bear their mind on the issue of taxation and levies and how they go about it.
Mama Ada, a fish seller in Gwagwalada says she now sells her market at the backyard of her home because of the taxes that were always demanded from her when she was at the market.
She said after paying the area council their yearly due, other “Agberos would come and force money out of us.”
She said they usually come in the evenings after they have sold most of their products and if the women don’t give them the money they will force it out from them or confiscate their goods.
“We often complained to the market security force but discovered they are in collaboration. They don’t take our complaint seriously or act on it. I decided to move back home after I realised their visit became persistent,” she said.
Though she is not getting enough patronage from running the business from home but she said she is comfortable at home than when she was in the market.
Samira Kamshi who owns a beauty shop in Kano says she suffers the challenges of multiple taxation but she gives them all the time they come because she wants to continue her business in peace.
Madam Tonia Ejembi who operates a saloon business in Kado said she does not know which is adding that different people come at different time telling them they are from the tax office. “Some will come and say from AMAC, some from business association. We pay some without receiving invoice.”
She said some of them threaten to shut down their shops if they did not pay within a particular period of time and for that fear they pay a token at times just to let them be.
“I think the tax office has to give women orientation on how to pay tax and where to pay to avoid people cheating us. All these small businesses we are doing is to support the family and it is discouraging when they are siphoning money from us”, she said.
A food seller who does not want her name in print complained that aside the street urchins, traders are also harassed by their own union. She said after paying area council their dues, street urchins come for theirs also every month but that doesn’t bother her as much as the union they have.
“Food sellers union ensures we pay N500 every month because according to them at the end of the year we buy gifts for our members. But the thing is these gifts are not even worth the N70,000 one paid. And when they complained about it the union officials insist if we want to continue to operate as food sellers we must pay”, she laments.
Meanwhile, most business women see no reason for paying tax to revenue agencies as they said they did not see what the money collected from them are used for.