Taxation of Illegal Businesses: A Clog in the Wheel of Crime?

Taxation, according to the Business Dictionary is defined as “a means by which governments finance their expenditure by imposing charges on citizens and corporate entities”. The term “taxation” is said to however apply to all involuntary levies, from income to capital gains to estate taxes irrespective of whether they are legal or not. 

As a matter of fact, in some countries, with specific reference to the United States of America, there are laws that are to the effect that a person’s taxable income will generally be subject to the same Federal Income Tax rules regardless of whether they are obtained or earned legally or not. This signifies that this practice has been institutionalized in some jurisdictions although it is still a matter subject to policy decision in Nigeria.

Although, numerous arguments, have been given by different writers concerning taxation of illegal incomes and even several court decisions given in support of same, the writer is of the firm but not infallible position that such incomes should not be taxed as it forms a clog in the wheel of crimes control.

Vital to the arguments proposed in support of taxing illegal incomes is the rule against self-incrimination. It is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “the act of indicating one’s own involvement in a crime or exposing oneself to prosecution, especially by making a statement.” The purport of this rule is that accused persons cannot be compelled to disclose any such information which is capable of incriminating them. Such laws include but not restricted to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution barring that government from compelling suspects to testify against themselves.

Compelling however, is the provision of the S. 36(11) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides that a person shall not be compelled to disclose any piece of information which tends to show that he has committed an offence.

In a recent report on Punch Metro specifically on the 15th day of March 2018, a group of hoodlums were said to have attacked an area of Akoka in Lagos State leaving a lecturer of the University of Lagos and an a final year student of the same school dead. The report has it that the mastermind behind the crime is a drug dealer known to the police. Imagine such drug dealing business being taxed. It would only be partnered and encouraged thereby aggravating the level of crime of subject to taxation instead of prosecution.