According to the 48th President of the Institute, Doyin Owolabi, that is the import of the recent judgement of the Appeal Court on the matter of the right of Chartered Accountants and other professionals to practise taxation in Nigeria.
Describing the judgement given by the Court of Appeal on February 15 in Lagos as a vindication of the cause of the institute, Owolabi says that, contrary to the impression erroneously and mischievously created in the media and among stakeholders, the court’s judgement did not restrain ICAN members who are not Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) members from pratising taxation in Nigeria.
“As a matter of fact,” he maintains, “the two key reliefs sought by CITN, which form the kernel of the controversy between the two bodies (reliefs 3 & 5), were actually set aside by the court…”
In delivering its judgement on 15 February, the Appeal court had set aside two of the five reliefs sought by CITN namely 3 and 5. The two reliefs are: “A declaration that it is illegal for any member of the defendant (ICAN) who is not a member of the Claimant (CITN) to practice or hold himself out to practice as a tax administrator or practitioner for or in expectation of reward in Nigeria”; and “An order restraining members of the Defendant (ICAN) who are not members of the Claimant (CITN) from practicing, representing or holding themselves out as Tax Administrators or Practitioners in violation of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria Act No. 76 of 1992 Cap C10 LFN 2004.”
When CITN filed its suit at a Lagos High court in 2005, all the five reliefs sought were granted by the Honourable Justice Mrs. Okunnu-Shuaibu in her ruling delivered two years after. The recent judgement was the outcome of the appeal by ICAN in a bid to have the reliefs set aside.
Says Owolabi, “The judgement of 15 February, 2013 by the Court of Appeal, in upholding the lower Court’s decision on prayers 1, 2 and 4 and setting aside prayers 3 and 5, has indeed vindicated ICAN members and made it clear that there is no order restraining members of the Institute from practicing tax in Nigeria.”
He says further: “For the avoidance of doubt, we hereby reiterate that while the Court of appeal held that Taxation is a profession distinct from accountancy and gave CITN powers to regulate and control the practice of taxation, CITN was denied the right to declare it illegal for ICAN members who are not members of CITN to practice as Tax administrators for a reward in Nigeria. The Court of Appeal also refused to grant a perpetual injunction restraining ICAN members who are not CITN members from practicing, representing or holding themselves out as Tax Administrators or Practitioners in violation of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria Act No. 76 of 1992 Cap C10 LFN 2004.”
The import of the judgement, Owolabi reiterates, is clear to all and sundry: ICAN members can practice taxation unhindered without being members of CITN. He advises members of ICAN and other stakeholders to discountenance misinformation and sentiments, avail themselves of the court ruling which cannot be altered and draw their own conclusions from it. He says that ICAN as a law abiding body of respectable professionals established by the Act of Parliament No 15 of 1965, has operated within the limits of the rule of Law in its past forty eight years in line with its motto, Accuracy and Integrity, and will not succumb to any form of distraction.