Nigeria's federal government says it is ready to prosecute, name and shame tax evaders that fail to utilise the tax amnesty program, the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), to regularize their tax profiles, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, declared on Thursday.
She also disclosed that the federal government would strictly adhere to the confidentiality of the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters, in line with the guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The minister made this known at the VAIDS Stakeholders Symposium held at the Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Murtala Square, in Kaduna State.
The sensitization program was attended by the Executive Governor of the State, Nasir el-Rufai; Accountant General of the Federation, Idris Ahmed; Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler; members of the State Executive Council, captains of industries and business owners.
Mrs. Adeosun stated that the federal government had the political will to prosecute tax evaders once the tax amnesty program was over by March 31, 2018.
She said, “The federal government has the political will and data to go after tax evaders who fail to take advantage of the tax amnesty program. Many Nigerians cannot explain their lifestyles or match their lifestyles, assets and income with their tax payment.
“We will close VAIDS at the expiration of the program on March 31, 2018. And once the program is closed, we will name and shame and also prosecute tax evaders.”
On data sharing with foreign countries, the minister noted that the information sourced would strictly be used for tax purposes.
“The guideline requires that the automatic exchange of financial account information must be specifically designed with residence jurisdictions’ tax compliance in mind rather than be a by-product of domestic reporting for it to be effective,” she said.
She added that the automatic exchange of information had become necessary to combat tax evasion and protect the integrity of tax systems.
The VAIDS, according to her, has been strengthened by the data on financial accounts, property and trusts shared by other countries.
She advised offshore asset owners to utilize the VAIDS window to regularise their taxes before the end of the amnesty program.
“The offshore tax shelter system is basically over. Those who have hidden money overseas are being exposed and whilst Nigerians can legally keep their money anywhere in the world, they must first pay any taxes due to the Nigerian Government so that we can fund the needs of the masses and create jobs and wealth for our people,” she urged.
The Kaduna State Governor, who disclosed that he declared his assets in 2017, commended the collaboration between the Federal and State Governments on tax.
He pledged to provide land ownership data to tax authorities at the federal and state level, as part of measures to bring more income earners and asset owners into the tax net.
The governor assured that the revenue from taxes would be judiciously used in improving the lives of residents of the State through investment in infrastructure, primary health an education.
The FIRS Executive Chairman reinforced the need for Nigerians to join hands with the federal and state governments to improve the standard of living through compliance with tax payment.