To improve tax compliance, the federal government has said tax offenders stands to enjoy 29 per cent waiver on overdue taxes if they take advantage of the recently-launched Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
Mr.Â Abiodun Aina, Special Adviser to the Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), made this known in an interview with the News Agency of NigeriaÂ (NAN) yesterday in Abuja.
He said the VAIDS programme aimed toÂ reduce tax payers liability and create more awareness on the statutory function of every working citizen toÂ pay tax.
â€œUsually tax offenders when caught are liable to pay their tax plus 10 per cent of the total amount as penalty fee and 19 per cent as interest making a total of 29 per cent.
â€œBut if they take advantage of the VAIDS programme, they stand to save 29 per cent on interest and penalty on taxes they owe.
â€œThe VAIDS programme offers a lot of benefit to tax offenders.
â€œThey will no longer pay interest, they will not pay penalty, they will no longer be investigated and they will not be subjected to regular audit. They will also not face criminal prosecution.
â€œWhen you fail to pay taxes, you are liable to criminal prosecution because itâ€™s a criminal offence. But with VAIDS, you wonâ€™t be prosecuted for those criminal offenses,â€ he said.
Aina said the VAIDS Secreteriat had begun to receive people coming to voluntarily pay their taxes.
He, however, could not say how many people have already come forward, in the month since the VAIDS programme was launched by the acting president.
On the sustainability of the programme, Aina urged people to take the federal governmentâ€™s threat seriously.
â€œThis is not business as usual. Government will not forget about it.
â€œOne important thing we need to bring to the attention of Nigerians is that come January 2018, we have already signed agreement for automatic exchange of information with quite a number of countries.
â€œWhat that means is that from January, 2018, they will begin to give information about Nigerians resident in other countries.
â€œSo we will know about their properties, their bank accounts and we will know about their shareholdings. All these information will become available to the tax collectors.
â€œWhoever fails to take advantage of VAIDS, by the time the programme lapses, tax evaders will then be liable to pay penalty, pay interest, face prosecution and open for further tax investigation.
â€œSo it is a very serious matter. It is in the interest of every Nigerian to take advantage of this scheme to ensure that you are free from prosecution in future,â€ he said.
The VAIDs programme offers a grace periodÂ from July 1, 2017 toÂ March 31, 2018,Â for tax evaders to voluntarily pay back to government what they owe.
In exchange for full and honest declaration, the government promises to waive penalties that should have been levied and also waive the interest that should have been paid on overdue taxes.
Also, those who declare honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the grace period.
Through the programme, the government intends to increase the countryâ€™s tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from six per cent to 30 per cent, and tax base from 14 million to 17 millionÂ in two years.