Data sourced from federal/state agencies, foreign countries

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The federal government has said it has identified a new batch of over 130,000 high net worth individuals and companies with potential tax underpayments.

They were uncovered via the data mining efforts of the Ministry of Finance’s Project Lighthouse.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, made the disclosure yesterday while appearing on the ‘Good Morning Nigeria programme of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

She revealed that the data was currently being compiled by Project Lighthouse in preparation for the closure of the ongoing Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which ends on March 31, 2018.

Project Lighthouse is a unique project of the Ministry of Finance that combines data from Federal and State agencies and overseas countries.

She said: “The data have been received from a number of sources including land registries of the Governments of Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“In addition, Nigeria has been able to request data from a number of nations including traditional tax havens. The data have been received from a number of foreign jurisdictions under the exchange of information protocols.

“Under the exchange of information protocols, this information relates to bank records and financial filings for tax purposes and is obtained from tax havens who are signatories to the information sharing agreements such as British Virgin Islands and Mauritius.”

She explained that the data received from overseas countries would only be used for taxation purposes in line with the protocols governing the exchange of information
“The sole interest of the federal and state governments in the use of the data is in raising tax revenues. There is absolutely no hidden agenda on the use of the data,” she added.

Adeosun hailed the ‘unprecedented’ level of cooperation between the federal and state governments, which she said was a marked change from the past when the various arms of government did not align their efforts.

She identified the common violations by non-compliant tax payers to include; Under-declaration of and non-declaration of income earned including income from Government contracts and overseas trading; Collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) which is not duly remitted to FIRS; Charging of non-allowable personal expenses to company accounts particularly with reference to overseas school fees; Inconsistency between income declared for tax purposes and the value of assets owned.

She advised non-compliant tax payers to seek professional advice and to also consult relevant literature available from the tax authorities on tax rules.
The minister underscored the federal government’s commitment to raising tax revenues which were essential to grow the economy and create jobs for Nigerians.