Osinbajo oers 9 months grace period to tax evaders

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ACTING President, Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday
oered nine months grace period to tax payers
to regularise their tax status or face criminal
prosecution for tax oences.
Osinbajo made the in Abuja at the inauguration
of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration
Scheme VAIDs.
He said the scheme was specially targeted at
taxpayers who had not declared their taxable
incomes and assets, as well as those who don’t
pay at all, and those who had been underpaying
or under remitting.
Osinbajo said the scheme would cover all federal
and state taxes such as companies’ income tax,
personal income tax, petroleum prot tax, capital
gains tax, stamp duties and tertiary education tax.
“The scheme will be operated from July 1, 2017
to March 31, 2018.
“It will be supported by an executive order,
which I will sign into law today to oer a once
in a life time opportunity to those in default to
regularise their tax aairs.
“In exchange for full and honest declaration, tax
evaders will receive immunity from prosecution,
forgiveness of penalty and interest that is due on
unpaid taxes.
“They will also get the full assurance that all
information provided will remain condential.
“In addition, participants in the scheme will not
be selected for audit investigation for the period.
“We understand that some tax payers may have
problems raising cash and for that reason, we have
built in a system that will allow those owing to
pay over a period of time.’’
According to the acting president, this is subject
to conditions.
Osinbajo said that those who failed to take
advantage of the nine months grace period would
face criminal investigation and if found guilty
may face up to ve-years jail term.
He said that the government would immediately
commence a nationwide sensitisation of Nigerians
on the scheme and tax in general to ensure
compliance.
“To this end, we have agreed that every
Thursday starting from today, and for the next one
year will be declared Tax Thursday.
“We expect the Federal Inland Revenue Service
FIRS,and every state government to organise
sensitisation events that would raise awareness
of the tax system to ensure massive enrolment of
new tax payers We must enroll at least 4 million tax payers
and increase the level of payment among the 14
million already registered tax payers.
“We expect that all state governors will
personally lead this initiative and support the
work of the 7,500 community tax liaison ocers
that would be employed shortly.’’
The acting president said that a high level team
working with the Federal Ministry of Finance was
set up 15 months ago to research on tax evasion
and illicit nancial ows.
He said the report of the team, which was tagged
“Light House Project” searched various data bases
such as banks, Corporate Aairs Commission,
vehicle registration numbers and immigration to
sh out tax evaders.
On the international front, Osinbajo said;
“Nigeria is now a party to the automatic exchange
of information which comes into eect in January,
2018’’.
“This means that Nigeria will automatically
have all the information to successfully pursue tax
evaders across the world.
“Specically, we will have information on
benecial owners of assets held abroad, including
those in tax havens,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi
Adeosun, said that with the scheme, Nigeria
hoped to increase tax to Gross Domestic Product
GDP, of the country from six per cent to 30 per
cent.
“If we pass this test, the future of Nigeria is
assured,” she said.
In his remarks, Sen. John Enoh of Cross River
Central, who represented the President of the
Senate, assured of legislative backing to the
scheme.
He said the senate would pass whatever
legislation needed to improve tax compliance in
the country.
Similarly, the Chairman of Nigeria Governors
Forum, Mr Abudulaziz Yari pledged the state
governments’ support and commitment toward
the new initiative.
Yari, who is also the Governor of Samara, said
that state governments would be the biggest
beneciary of revenues derived from the scheme
as they would give the FIRS necessary support.
A recent report of the Joint Tax Board showed
that only 14 million people out of the estimated
69.9 million Nigerians, who are economically
active, are paying taxes.



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