Nigeria’s High net-worth individuals are scouting for more time under tax amnesty

Nigeria’s high profile individuals are seeking an extension of the Nigerian government’s Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) tax amnesty programme, to give ensure they put their house in order before the scheme ends in March.

In a report by Punch, a source disclosed that ex-governors, “top politicians, high profile individuals, business owners and professional bodies” are attempting to influence the Nigerian government to postpone the due date for the scheme.

The president Mohammadu Buhari-led administration came up with VAIDS July last year to provide a time-limited opportunity for tax defaulters to fully and honestly declare undisclosed assets and income.

VAIDS office has been collating financial data of all tax payers by liaising with the various state governments and revenue-generating agencies to trace defaulters. Knowing that the government is armed with adequate information, politicians, business owners and high net-worth individuals have become perturbed and are seeking quick intervention.

The Nigerian government has also been tracking high profile individuals assets through its data mining programme called ‘Project lighthouse,’ that helps identify individual and corporate tax defaulters within and outside the country.

Data obtained by the government from agencies and tax payment platforms like the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigerian Communications Commission, Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System and Remita respectively, have provided evidences to back up its investigations.

Extending its searchlight to property owners in urbane areas across the country, the government has received document on property owners from state authorities through the Project Lighthouse programme. as well as tax records and bank account details of the property owners were being reviewed by the Project Lighthouse team, a Punch source provided.

According to the report, the source stated that “state governments have now realized that the bulk of the revenue from VAIDS will go to them as many of these taxpayers reside in the various states,” and that “governors are now collaborating with the Federal Government to provide data of property owners in choice areas to determine their tax status. It has been observed that most of the taxpayers’ lifestyles do not reflect in their tax payment.”

The source further revealed that “The extension of the searchlight on these property owners is not unconnected with illicit financial flows to property owners not paying taxes,” and added that some state governments are collaborating with the government to provide electronic searchable database that has the name, plot number, location of the property and Certificate of Occupancy number for both individual and corporate property owners.

Last month, the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, noted that tax evaders would be named, shamed and prosecuted after the amnesty programme under the VAIDS is over by March 31, 2018.

“The Federal Government has the political will and data to go after tax evaders who fail to take advantage of the tax amnesty programme. Many Nigerians cannot explain their lifestyles or match their lifestyles, assets and incomes with their tax payment,” and “We will close VAIDS at the expiry of the programme on March 31, 2018. And once the programme is closed, we will name and shame and prosecute tax evaders” the minister said.

Aiming to increase revenue generation for its oil-dependent economy, the Nigerian government seeks to expand tax net to enhance the effectiveness of revenue collection agencies in the country.