The Federal Government has said it would name, shame and prosecute tax offenders who fail to take advantage of the opportunity contained in the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) to nomalize their tax profiles according to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun at a VAIDS stakeholders’ symposium held in Kaduna State.
In attendance at the awareness programme was Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Idris Ahmed; Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Babatunde Fowler; members of the State Executive Council; and business owners.
In a statement released by her Media Adviser, Oluyinka Akintunde, Kemi Adeosun said that the Federal Government would strictly adhere to the confidentiality clause in the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in tax matters.
This, she added, was in line with the guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Adeosun stated that the Federal Government has the political will to prosecute tax offenders once the amnesty programme window shuts by March 31, 2018.
She said, “The Federal Government has the political will and data to go after tax evaders who fail to take advantage of the tax amnesty programme. Many Nigerians cannot explain their lifestyles or match their lifestyles, assets and incomes with their tax payment.
“We will close the VAIDS at the expiration of the programme on March 31, 2018. And once the programme is closed, we will name and shame, and prosecute tax evaders.”
On data sharing with foreign countries, the minister noted that the information sourced would be strictly used for tax purposes.“The guidelines require that the automatic exchange of financial account information must be specifically designed with residence jurisdictions’ tax compliance in mind rather than being a by-product of domestic reporting for it to be effective,” Adeosun added.
She noted that the automatic exchange of information had become necessary to combat tax evasion and protect the integrity of tax systems. The VAIDS, according to her, has been strengthened by the data on financial accounts, property and trusts shared by other countries.
Adeosun advised offshore asset owners to utilise the VAIDS window to regularise their taxes before the end of the amnesty programme. “The offshore tax shelter system is basically over. Those who have hidden money overseas are being exposed and while Nigerians can legally keep their money anywhere in the world, they must first pay any taxes due to the Nigerian government so that we can fund the needs of the masses and create jobs and wealth for our people,” she added.
El-Rufai, who disclosed that he declared his assets in 2017, commended the collaboration between the federal and state governments on tax matters.He pledged to provide land ownership data to tax authorities at the federal and state levels as part of measures to bring more income earners and asset owners into the tax net.The governor gave an assurance that revenue from taxes would be judiciously used in improving the lives of residents of the state through investment in infrastructure, primary health care and education.
Fowler, on his part, emphasised the need for Nigerians to join hands with the federal and state governments to improve the standard of living through compliance with tax payment.