The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, has called on wealthy Nigerians to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) to regularize their tax status and escape unsavoury consequences.
The Minister made the call in Enugu on Wednesday, during the hosting of VAIDS by the Enugu State government.
In attendance at the event were Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, members of the state executive council, legislature and traditional rulers.
The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, was represented by Sir Oseni Elamah, Executive Secretary, Joint Tax Board (JTB).
Also present were representatives of the business community in the state.
In her speech at the event, Adeosun said the Federal Government has compiled data on property, bank accounts, shareholdings and other income sources of individuals and corporate entities.
According to her, VAIDS was conceived to allow Nigerian companies and individuals to do what is right for the country, right for Enugu State and right for one another.
“From our records, there seems to be a few big men and big women from this part of the country, who may need to think very carefully about making a VAIDS declaration. We have been compiling data on property, bank accounts, share holdings and other sources that suggest that many people have not been paying the right taxes. VAIDS is an opportunity to regularize,” she stated.
Adeosun also said that huge sums of money have been moved out of Nigeria without the owners paying a kobo in tax. Adeosun warned those who have moved money out of the country without paying taxes that they would be found out.
“The good news for government, which is bad news for the tax evaders, is that globally, nations have agreed to share data under the Automatic Exchange of Information. This means that sitting at our desks in Abuja, we are getting information about assets that the owners thought were well hidden from the tax authorities.
“As you know, Nigerians are entitled to keep their wealth anywhere in the world, including under their mattress, but what the law requires is that they pay tax on their income as they earn it,” she said.
She declared that Nigeria is proud of her millionaires, billionaires and even trillionaires and want many more to emerge. She, however, stated that the government wants everyone to pay the right taxes for the development of the country.
Nigeria, she added, has a very poor scorecard in tax payment.
“When oil came, we abandoned the old systems of tax collection that provided most of our infrastructure since colonial days. Currently, we have just 14 million taxpayers out of 70million, who are economically active. So many who should be paying are not paying anything. Incidentally, we have 74 million registered voters.
“Also, some who are paying something are not paying the correct amount. It may seem smart for a businessman to go and get a tax clearance certificate for N200,000 when he earns millions, but I can tell you without fear of contradiction, that not only is this illegal, but such people are cheating themselves and future generations,” she said.
The scheme, which provides a time-limited opportunity for tax defaulters to declare their indebtedness, ends on 31 March. Declarers will be free of tax audits, payment of interests and penalties on owed taxes as well as prosecution. Failure to declare at the expiration of the window will attract severe penalties and prosecution.