The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, has warned that tax evaders risk being exposed if they fail to pay up and urged members of the Institute of Directors (IoD) to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
Fowler gave the advice in Lagos during the week while making a presentation on the tax amnesty scheme to IoD members.
During the presentation titled: â€˜Achieving Voluntary Tax Compliance: The VAIDS Optionâ€™, the FIRS chairman explained that the key motivation for introducing the scheme is that the countryâ€™s tax remittance rate remains low despite having some of Africaâ€™s most profitable and well capitalised companies.
â€œNigeriaâ€™s low tax revenues are inconsistent with the lifestyles and spending habits of a large number of citizens. Many are engaged in transfer of assets overseas, use of offshore companies in tax havens and registration of assets in nominee names,â€ said Fowler.
He noted that tax evasion constitutes a significant challenge to the government and listed a number of ways through which taxes are evaded. Among these, he said, are manipulation of accounting records, use of complex structures for transanctions, non-registration for Value Added Tax (VAT), non-payment of Capital Gains Tax ( CGT) on asset disposal and escaping detection of income due to lack of machinery for tracing such.
The FIRS boss, however, warned that under VAIDS, tax evaders will not escape. He explained that the Federal Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with relevant tax authorities, is building a revenue assurance platform through extensive gathering of data from sources that include Bank Verification Number (BVN), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), land allocation and land ownership records, foreign exchange allocation returns and bureaux de change records. Others are Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS), information from foreign governments as well as whistleblower tips and leaks.
The FIRS Chairman instantiated information from foreign governments with the recently passed Unexplained Wealth Order in the UK, Wikileaks, Panama Papers and Automatic Exchange of Information (AEoI), to which Nigeria is signatory.
He stated that IoD members have, as obligations, leading the charge for truthful and voluntary declaration of all income by corporate bodies, voluntary tax compliance as individuals and corporate bodies, being tax ambassadors by raising tax awareness among peers and being exemplary citizens in words and deeds. VAIDS offers tax defaulters a window to declare their indebtedness and escape tax interests and penalties as well as prosecution. The scheme closes on 31 March.