FG May Sell off 2,000 Houses in Abuja over Tax Avoidance

  •  Harvests N17bn from VAIDS in five months

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The federal government disclosed thursday that it has uncovered 2,000 houses in Abuja whose owners are not paying taxes on them, giving an indication it may soon dispose off the property after securing the necessary legal backing.

It also revealed that a total of N17 billion had been garnered under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) since its formal commencement on July 1, 2017 , with another N6 billion expected before the end of the year.

The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service ( FIRS), Mr. Tunde Flower, who made the disclosures in Abuja yesterday at a workshop for media professionals hinted that the tax agency identified 2,000 properties in various parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), whose owners neither pay taxes nor file returns on them.

He stated that should the owners of 2,000 property refuse paying commensurate taxes on them, FIRS would seek the consent of the courts to dispose off the houses, noting that after netting off taxes due on them, the balance (if any), will be handed to their owners.

On the N17 billion raked in from VAIDS, the FIRS chief he said the amount came from fewer than 500 firms ,adding that more revenue would roll in in days to come.

Fowler noted that more entities wee desirous of seizing the window of opportunity offered by the tax amnesty to regularise their tax status, adding that the government had engaged consultants who are asking questions for clarification.

“ Less than 500 firms have paid N17 billion and another N6 billion is being expected to be paid before the end of December”. In terms of number, we have not gotten the type of crucial number we envisaged when we gave tax amnesty.

“We have 2,700 companies that applied for it. Now, we are talking about several companies that have come under VAIDS . A lot more needed to be done. Companies are asking questions, talking to consultants. We expect a whole lot more to come in as the programme gets to close,” he said.
The March 31, 2018, deadline given to people and corporate bodies to regularise their tax defaults, he said, is sacrosanct and will not be shifted.

In his paper captioned: ‘VAIDS: A Tax Amnesty in Action,’ the Managing Consultant, Pedabo Associate Limited),Mr. Albert Folorunsho, said VAIDS is not a law but a scheme to compel people to pay tax, and dismissed insinuations that some people could head to court to cripple its implementation.

“ No new tax laws have been put in place .VAIDS is just a scheme to encourage tax payers to comply with existing tax laws. If you are liable to income tax, the rate remains the same. It’s like come and pay before we begin to pursue you. Come voluntarily and pay within nine months.
“If you decide not to come forward, no problem; after the grace period , you have to pay your tax including penalty after expiration of amnesty,” he said.

On the status of churches, mosques and other houses of worship taxes, he said religious houses are exempted from taxes.

However, he said if they had business outfits that generate income, such income is taxable.
“Churches and mosques are exempted from taxes. However, any church or mosque that engages in business , the income from the business is liable to tax. If a clergyman earns income in his capacity as a clergyman, either from the church or other sources, as an individual, you are liable to tax.

“No exception in tax laws for clergymen. This is not for churches or mosques to begin to pay tax on their tithe or offerings. But if religious organisations set up schools for business, it has to pay tax on them,” he said.

On property tax, he explained that, “when property begins to generate income , whether owned by individual or company, the owner will be required to pay tax on the income on the property,” adding that rent collected from a property is a taxable income.

VAIDS, which was launched on June 29, 2017 is a time – limited opportunity for tax payers to regularise their tax status relating to previous tax period.

Designed for a nine-month period, it fully commenced on July 1, 2017.
In exchange for fully and honestly declaring previously undisclosed assets and income, tax payers will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties, and the assurance that they will not face criminal prosecution for tax offences or be subject to tax investigation.
VAIDS ushers in an opportunity to increase the nation’s general tax awareness and compliance.