FG To Target Tax Evaders Come April
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has disclosed that the Federal Government would aggressively go after tax evaders from next April when the grace period for voluntarily assets and income declaration would have been over.
She announced that it would no longer be business as usual, and reminded everyone that tax evasion was a criminal offence, punishable under the relevant laws. She advised Nigerians to quickly surrender the required information to the scheme while the window of grace lasted or face the consequences of tax evasion afterwards.
She gave the warning in Lagos during a workshop for professionals with a view to advising their clients on participation in the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
The scheme was launched by the Federal Government in June to encourage people to voluntarily disclose their previously undisclosed assets and income for the purpose of payment of all outstanding tax liabilities.
While imploring Nigerians to key into the scheme, she said that tax payment was the link between the people and the government. She added that no government successfully meets up its obligations without a healthy tax system.
Adeosun frowned at the attitudes of some Nigerians, especially the high income earners, who make millions and billions from the country, but wouldn’t want to contribute to the development of the same country they benefited from.
She gave assurance that the social contract would be strengthened between the people and the government through transparency and accountability. She doused the fear nursed by skeptics on whether the money realized by the initiative would be used judiciously or not. She charged tax payers to maintain eagle’s eyes over how the government uses their money.
On how to achieve honest declaration of assets and income, the minister said that individuals and companies’ data available to the government have made the process seamless in making tax payers’ status verifiable.
According to her, the voluntary declaration is also extended to Nigerians who made their money to acquire assets abroad. She regretted that Nigerians willingly pay taxes when they travel abroad, even from the money they make in Nigeria but look the other way when asked to do so in their country.
She promised that the government would not treat volunteers as criminals between now and March next year, saying that the people had made their money genuinely but took advantage of the porous system.
She revealed that necessary arrangements have been put in place to allow people to pay in installments spanning over a period of time, especially for those who obviously cannot clear the arrears once.
Adeosun commended the state governors for their cooperation and contributions to ensure that people from their respective states welcome the ideas and do the needful. She urged Nigerians to view accurate tax payment as a patriotic obligation to achieve a vibrant economy. The minister was optimistic that the initiative would be sustained by subsequent governments, citing how robust tax continuity system has strengthened Lagos State economy.
“I don’t think there is any government that will not want an efficient tax system,” Adeosun said