The Legal Department is both the administrative compliance and judicial enforcement arm of the Benin Revenue Authority (BRA). It has and plays a critical role in pursuing the mission of the BRA to collect taxes and all amounts due the Government of Benin in a fair and expeditious manner that complies with law. The Department advises the BRA in respect of the application and interpretation of the Tax Code and applicable Benin Beninese while leading and/or supporting any necessary enforcement of the Tax Code and its requirements through administrative and judicial procedures and processes, including prosecution of tax offenders and offenses.
The importance of the Legal Department is underscored by the fact that it is a statutory department of the BRA and that the BRA Act requires that it be headed by a senior officer holding the title of a commissioner, meaning at the third level of authority below the Commissioner General and Deputy Commissioners.
With the approval of the BRA Board, the Legal Department works through three operational divisions, which are each headed by an Assistant Commissioner or a lawyer having such equivalent seniority. The three (3) divisions are (i) Enforcement and Litigation; (ii) Advisory and Compliance Services; and (iii) Board and Management Affairs.; each division is subdivided into sections. The four divisions are operationally separate but interlinked by shared responsibility and supervision, thus ensuring effective coordination, communication and economy of resources.
The advisory support division is responsible to provide and is providing real-time legal advice, interpretation and support to the various offices and officer of the BRA relative to legal questions arising in the course of their work. The litigation and enforcement division leads the BRA’s enforcement efforts both at the administrative level-including before the hearing Officer and at the Board of Tax Appeal- and also through the courts system up to the Supreme Court. In carrying out its functions, the Litigation and Enforcement Section coordinates and work with the Ministry of Justice, any external counsels and other law-enforcement and investigative agencies of government. The Board and Management Affairs Division provides corporate secretarial, recording and other resource support to the board and management of the BRA.
Besides the three divisions, the Department has an independent, critical unit called the office of the Hearing Officer. The function of the Hearing officer is akin to that of an administrative judge; the Hearing Officer hears, on a very expeditious but responsive basis, all objections or challenges to tax assessments, bills or determination as are filed by all taxpayers. The objective of the Office is to provide an administrative forum where each taxpayer is accorded some expedited administrative hearing of any contested tax assessment or bill prior to enforcement. Any decision of the hearing officer may be appealed by either the BRA or a taxpayer to the Board of Tax Appeal (BofTA). The hearing officer also ensures administrative due process for BRA stuff vis-à-vis their supervisors and/or overall corporate grievance procedures.
The overall function of the legal department is to enhance collection of revenues through support to both tax collecting officers and the tax-paying public. This is achieved by way of public education on existing tax-enforcement requirements; enforced compliance; and consistent, effective prosecution of all tax offenders and offenses without fear or favor and irrespective of authority, background or position in society.