Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government on Thursday foreclosed any extension beyond the March 31, 2018, deadline for the enforcement of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
Â The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, who unfolded government position in Abuja at a VAIDS training programme, urged professionals to help sensitise their clients to participate in the scheme instead of asking for an extension, as such option was not being contemplated.
Â Fowler was responding to the request made by the President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Cyril Ede, who urged the federal government to consider extending the deadline from March to September 2018, to give more room for better compliance.
The FIRS chief said the scheme was a carefully thought-out one that involved the input of various stakeholders, including the National Assembly, urging all individuals and organisations to declare their assets and pay appropriate taxes before the March 31, 2018, deadline to avoid interests, penalties, tax audits and prosecution.
Â Fowler said: â€œThere will be no extension. No one should think along that line. Even if you give some people 10 years to regularise their taxes, they will not still comply. And someone who wants to perform his duties by paying appropriate taxes can do so in six months. It is the will that matters.
â€œHowever, you donâ€™t have to pay your tax on the day you declared your assets. Tax authorities can work out a deferment arrangement where you can pay the tax on a later date as agreed. That is subject to their approval.â€
Â VAIDS, he noted, was launched on June 29 and allows Nigerians to honestly declare their assets and pay appropriate taxes between July 1 and March 31, 2018, when there will be penalties of any sort.
Fowler said: â€œHowever, we know we need the support of stakeholders and that is why this training was organized. You have been invited to share your ideas with us as regards this scheme. We need you to point out areas we can improve on.
â€œWe need your buy-in. The issue of prosecution is not the best of successful options. How many companies will you close? How many people will you prosecute? We need your support to make this work well by speaking to your clients.
â€œNigeria as a country needs this programme seriously as our tax compliance level is low and should remarkably improve, especially now that our revenues from oil have reduced. So we need to open up non-oil revenue sources to operate,â€ he added.
According to him, â€œVAIDS has come to stay. Many big countries have gone through this. It wonâ€™t be extended,â€ Fowler explained.
Earlier in his remarks , the CITN President, Ede, described the scheme as laudable which will ginger Nigerians to come forward without fear to regularise their taxes within the grace period.
While asking for extension of the amnesty period, Ede said the time was ripe for Nigeria to take decisive steps to increase its tax base.
Ede said: Â â€œWe have informed our members to embrace the programme. We have released a publication on excerpts on how members can advise their clients on tax matters.
Thereâ€™s need for government to increase the grace period.
â€œBut we ask that the March 2018 deadline should be shifted to September 2018. South Africa gave a grace period of 11 months, even as a country with a better tax compliance level.
â€œIt is necessary for tax authorities to clean the Augean stable to allow tax defaulters put their house in order.
In his goodwill message, Arinze Gabriel, who represented the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), Ismail Zakari, said VAIDS remains a good move, especially now that Nigeria needs multiple streams of revenue from non-oil sources.
He said taxation in Nigeria had undergone reforms to enhance asset disclosures and tax payments.
â€œVAIDS is one of such reforms and it is welcome development. ICAN has informed all its members to embrace the scheme,â€ he said.
VAIDS was launched on June 29, 2017 by the then acting president, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The scheme effectively became operational on July 1, 2017.