In New Revenue Drive, FIRS Targets Billionaire Tax Defaulters   

Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler,
  • Considers freezing accounts
By James Emejo in Abuja 
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, has disclosed that the agency will soon target defaulting taxpayers who have billions in their bank accounts but refuse to honour tax obligations to the country.
He said over 6,772 billionaire taxpayers had been identified by the service leveraging on bank data, adding that the FIRS would through all banks do what it called substitution on accounts for such identified taxpayers.
The FIRS boss spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting which held last Thursday in Lagos, noting that those who had between N1 billion and N5 billion in their accounts have no Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or have an identification  but never filed any tax returns as tax payers.
Fowler was quoted by a source as saying, “What we have done is what we call ‘substitution’ which also is in our laws which empowers us to appoint the banks as collection agents for tax.
“So, all these ones of TIN and no pay and no TIN and no pay, to the total of 6,772 will have their accounts frozen or put under substitution pending when they come forward.”
He said, “First, they refused to come forward in 2016, they refused to come forward under VAT and are still operating here. So, we are putting them under notice that it is their civic responsibility to pay tax and to file returns on these accounts.
“We looked at all businesses, partnerships, corporate accounts that have a minimum turnover of N1 billion per annum for the past three years. First of all, the law states clearly that before you open a corporate account, part of the opening documentation is the tax I.D. From the 23 banks, we have analysed so far, we have 31,395 records, out of which effectively minus duplications we had 18,602.”
Continuing, he said, “We broke those into three categories: Those that have TIN tax I.D, those that don’t have no TIN and of course no TIN no pay and those that have TIN and have not even paid anything.
“So, on a minimum, every company or business included here over the last three years have had a banking turnover of N3 billion and above. Some of them have had banking turnover of over N5 billion and have not paid one kobo in taxes. Now the total number of TIN and no pay is 6,772.
“So, if someone is good in mathematics and you take the minimum level of N3 billion multiply by 409 and they are operating within our society and economy and do not remit or make any tax payment.”
Commenting further on some far-reaching measures being taken against wealthy tax defaulters, Fowler said, “…If you do not file your returns and you are in constant default, we use turnover as a basis of estimating your tax liability’. For example, if your turnover is N100 million, we assume that 20 per cent of that is profit and we tax that at 30 per cent.
He said some of the people or companies “claim not to own the properties, those of them that claim not to own the properties and of course were sent to government, presidency to decide what would happen to those properties that have no owners.
“To those that have owners and have not paid, they would be prosecuted. We are also in the process of going to court to get the approval of the court orders to sell those properties.
“We are not only doing that in Abuja, we have concluded it in Lagos. We are currently doing it in Osun, Oyo and Kaduna States and eventually we would cover the whole federation.
“The idea here is simple. If you have had the opportunity to make your wealth in this economy, in this society, the least you can do is pay your tax.
“We have not included any group who by law are not meant to pay tax in this group. So far, we have sent out 2,980 letters and we believe that before the end of September we would get most of them out.