The Federal Government has engaged an asset recovery firm to track the exact assets of tax defaulters that fail to take advantage of its nine months amnesty period under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme.
The VAIDs programme offers a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for tax defaulters to voluntarily pay back what they owe to the government.
In exchange for full and honest declaration, the government promises to waive penalties and interest that should have been paid by the defaulters on overdue tax.
Also, those who declare honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the grace period.
Nigeria is said to have one of the lowest tax compliance rates in the world with a tax-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio currently standing at six per cent.
Top government officials involved in the implementation of VAIDS confided in our correspondent that those who might fail to take advantage of the scheme and later found to have under-declared their incomes or assets would be treated as wilful tax evaders and face the full wrath of the law.
The official said apart from prosecution, the government had agreed to provide the public with identities of tax evaders under a “name and shame programme” after the expiration of the nine-month amnesty period.
The official said, “Specifically, we have engaged one of the world’s leading asset tracking and recovery firms who will track the true assets of those who have not participated but are believed to have underpaid their taxes.
“This will be supported by criminal prosecution, and recovery of taxes due with full penalties and interest. In addition, we plan a ‘Name and Shame’ programme that will reveal the identities of tax evaders.”
Furthermore, the official said the Federal Inland Revenue Service was currently profiling some categories of non-compliant taxpayers for ongoing audits and investigations, in line with the tax compliance reforms.
He urged taxpayers to make the most of the limited-time opportunity available under the scheme to declare their incomes and assets, and pay their outstanding taxes.
Attempts to get comments from the spokesperson for the FIRS, Mr. Wahab Gbadamosi, were not successful as calls and a text message sent to his telephone were not responded to.
The Federal Government on Thursday commenced a campaign to drive the rate of voluntary tax compliance in the country in order to boost the level of revenue generated through taxes.
The campaign, which was launched at the headquarters of the ministry of finance in Abuja, saw top officials in the ministry as well as the FIRS visiting markets and other popular places within the Federal Capital Territory to sensitise the people to the need for voluntary tax compliance.
The awareness campaign is part of measures to implement last week’s directive issued by Acting President Prof Yemi Osinbajo that every Thursday should be celebrated as a tax day to sensitise Nigerians to the benefits of taxation.
The Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, who led the campaign in Abuja, said the tax awareness programme would be taken to all the 36 states of the federation.
He said that the campaign would continue for the next one year as declared by Osinbajo at the launch of the VAIDS.
He was optimistic that the campaign would raise the level of tax awareness and result in massive enrolment of new tax payers.
Fowler said, through the programme, the Federal Government hoped to bring fresh four million taxpayers into the tax net as well as increase the level of payment among the 14 million already registered taxpayers.
He said, “The only way we can make Nigeria sweet is to start paying our taxes. We have come out with the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme programme, which gives everybody the opportunity to come out and declare their income and pay their contribution to ensure that Nigeria becomes a better place.
“I’m sure that if we all contribute, Nigeria will become the Nigeria of our dreams, the Nigeria that is prosperous and conducive to live in. Let’s join hands together to realise this dream by paying taxes.”