7 March 2018

Nigeria: Govt Uncovers 130,000 High Profile Tax Defaulters

Photo: The Guardian
Tax.

The federal government hinted yesterday that it has identified a new batch of over 130,000 high net worth individuals and companies with potential tax underpayments.

Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, revealed this when she appeared as a guest on the Good Morning Nigeria programme of the Nigerian Television Authority.

She disclosed that Project Lighthouse was currently compiling the data in preparation for the closure of the ongoing Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which ends on March 31, 2018.

Project Lighthouse is a unique project of the Federal Ministry of Finance that combines data from federal and state agencies as well as from abroad.

The minister said, "The data have been received from a number of sources, including land registries of the Governments of Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

"In addition, Nigeria has been able to request data from a number of nations, including traditional tax havens. The data have been received from a number of foreign jurisdictions under the exchange of information protocols.

"Under the exchange of information protocols, this information relates to bank records and financial filings for tax purposes and is obtained from tax havens who are signatories to the information sharing agreements such as British Virgin Islands and Mauritius."

Adeosun explained that the data received from other countries would only be used for taxation purposes in line with the protocols governing the exchange of information.

"The sole interest of the federal and state governments in the use of the data is in raising tax revenues. There is absolutely no hidden agenda on the use of the data," she added.

She hailed the 'unprecedented' level of cooperation between the federal and state governments, which she said is a marked change from the past when the various arms of government did not align their efforts.

The minister identified the common violations by non-compliant tax payers to include under-declaration of and non-declaration of income earned, collection of Value Added Tax (VAT), charging of non-allowable personal expenses to company accounts, particularly with reference to overseas school fees and inconsistency between income declared for tax purposes and the value of assets owned.

She advised non-compliant taxpayers to seek professional advice and to also consult relevant literature available from the tax authorities on tax rules.

Adeosun underscored federal government's commitment to raising tax revenues, which are essential in growing the economy and create jobs for Nigerians.

The minister cited the fact that just N1million could feed over 14,200 primary school children under the Homegrown School Feeding programme as well as creating many jobs in the agricultural sector.

Asked if the federal government would extend the deadline of the tax amnesty programme, Adeosun ruled out an extension of the deadline, saying sufficient period had been given to taxpayers to voluntary and truthfully declare their assets and income, which had not been declared previously.

On the economy, she assured that the country is on the path of growth.

Nigeria, it would be recalled, exited recession in the second quarter of 2017, recording a growth of 0.72 per cent.

The country further consolidated its recovery in the third and fourth quarters of last year, with growths of 1.40 per cent and 1.92 per cent, respectively.

To this effect, Adeosun said, "The Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has laid the foundation for the repositioning of the economy by a series of reforms which are being sequenced to ensure maximum impact and benefits to Nigeria and the citizens.

"These include huge investments in infrastructure and social welfare across the country, improved revenue mobilisation, rebuilding of foreign reserves and stabilization of exchange rate."

She further noted that revenue mobilisation is potentially the master key to unlocking Nigeria's huge growth potentials and funding the infrastructure programmes.

In addition, the Minister said the federal government would continue to create more fiscal space for reforms to enhance productivity and opportunity in the non-oil sector.

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