Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension of the amnesty period given to tax evaders under Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) from the March 31 to June 30, 2018.
The extension, according to the presidentâ€™s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, was as a result of appeals by professional bodies and individual taxpayers.
The statement, which warned that no further extension would be approved beyond June 30, added that the president also approved the extension because the Ministry of Finance was convinced that the overall objective of the scheme was to ensure that increased compliance is attained and additional revenue accrues to government coffers.
It added that a fresh executive order would be issued to give the extension legal force.
â€œFor a nation of people who are competitive and driven, it is not a pride that we are the lowest performer in tax to GDP ratio, not just in Africa, but in the world.
â€œNigeriaâ€™s growth needs are such that every Nigerian must do his duty to his nation, to his neighbour, and to himself.
â€œHiding monies overseas, evading taxes by manipulation, and other unwholesome practices, have never developed a country, and for Nigeria to attain her true potential, these must stop,â€ the president was quoted as saying.
The statement also said the president urged Nigerian companies and individuals to join the government in its rebuilding mission, â€œand do the right thing by taking this window of extension to regularise their tax statusâ€.
It noted that the right thing might not be convenient or comfortable, â€œbut in the long run, we will all have a nation we can be proud ofâ€.
It also said the president further urged the tax authorities to use the extension to perfect plans to prosecute those who fail to regularise their tax status.
â€œVAIDS is one of the key policies being used by the federal government to reposition the Nigerian economy and correct inherited underdevelopment.
â€œThe country has one of the lowest tax collection rates in the world at just 6 per cent of GDP. This was partially a function of the reliance on oil that saw us abandon the historical revenue collection systems and switch to a culture of sharing resources, rather than generating them.
â€œPresident Buhari had last year launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), and the VAIDS tax amnesty is first in the series of reforms that will transform our tax system and provide sustainable and predictable funding for all tiers of government.
â€œTax revenues will ensure that public infrastructure is provided, and public services are funded to improve the lives of the people.
â€œTaxes redistribute wealth from those who have more to those who have less, and VAIDS is one of the windows to achieve this,â€ the statement added.