Nigerians who own properties in the United Kingdom have inundated the Federal Ministry of Finance’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) hotlines with calls, causing the lines to crash last Friday.
A source at the VAIDs office told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the unprecedented level of calls was not unconnected with the new UK regulation on Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs). The source disclosed that the VAIDs office have been receiving massive calls and frantic requests from taxpayers based in the UK in the last 72 hours, asking for extension of time to enable them complete their VAIDS declaration forms. The UK Government had last week introduced a new law that requires foreigners who own properties in the country to explain the source of their funds or risk forfeiting them to the government.
According to the new law, the UWOs could be obtained on any property or combination of properties valued at 50,000 pounds ( N25 million) or more, for which the owner is unable to explain a legal source of its funding.
The source said the data already in the possession of the VAIDS office in the Federal Ministry of Finance revealed that many UK property owners had underpaid their taxes before transferring funds overseas to buy properties.
“Concerted efforts are ongoing to restore the hotlines following the crash last Friday.
“Most of the calls received are from high net worth individuals, including company executives, bankers and even a governor.
“All seem to be in panic over the prospect of losing their investments,” said a source within the VAIDS Office. The official said some of the apprehensive Nigerian property investors in UK had even visited the Federal Ministry of Finance requesting to see the minister and also the Head of the VAIDS Office.
The source explained that most of the enquiries were about seeking assurance from the Nigerian government that the VAIDs programme could protect them from potential asset forfeiture to the UK Government.
Others requested to know if their names had appeared on the lists the VAIDS office had obtained from overseas.
The UWO law, coupled with the revelation that many foreign governments are automatically sharing bank and property information with Nigeria, has resulted in an upsurge in enquiries about VAIDs.
VAIDS allows Nigerian taxpayers to restate their income and assets without limit and thus could potentially allow those who own properties that cannot be explained by their previously declared income to regularise by declaring and paying the correct taxes.