Tax: Defaulters In Final Rush As Amnesty Ends Tomorrow
As the tax amnesty under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme ends on Saturday, tax defaulters are said to be making last-minute efforts to meet the March 31 deadline.
The VAIDS offers a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for tax defaulters to voluntarily pay back to the government what they owe.
In exchange for full and honest declaration, the government promises to waive penalties that should have been levied and also waive the interest that should have been paid on overdue taxes.
Also, those who declare their tax obligations honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the nine-month grace period.
Investigations by our correspondent on Thursday in Abuja revealed that several calls were put through to the VAIDS hotlines by people seeking an extension of the programme.
It was gathered that many tax defaulters, who had thought that the amnesty programme would be extended, were making last minute efforts to key into the scheme.
Sources told our correspondent that many calls were received from taxpayers on Thursday seeking extension of time to complete their VAIDS declaration forms.
Our correspondent was told by one of the VAIDS officials that the number of calls received on the toll-free line between Wednesday and Thursday was overwhelming.
The official, who pleaded not to be named as he was not officially permitted to talk on the issue, said the scheme would officially come to a close on Saturday.
He, however, stated that while the VAIDS office might not be open for business because of the public holidays, those seeking to take advantage of the scheme could do so using the online platform that had been created for asset declaration.
The official explained, “The VAIDS amnesty programme will be officially coming to a close on Saturday and a lot of people have seen the body language of the government that there won’t be any extension.
“As we speak, the level of interest in the last three days has been overwhelming. The number of calls on our hotlines has also increased drastically. This may be as a result of two factors. The first being that March 31, which is the last day, is on a weekend and people want to know if they can be attended to in our offices. The second factor is that there is a public holiday, which has been declared by the Federal Government, and so the office will also be shut.
“But the good thing about the VAIDS is that those who want to take advantage of the scheme can declare online as there is a platform created for that purpose.”
When asked if there were feelers that the Federal Government would extend the scheme, the official said there were no such moves as of Thursday.
The Federal Government, through its data mining agency, Project Lighthouse, had in February received documents on property owners from state governments.
The first set of property owners under scrutiny for tax compliance are those who own choice properties in Lagos and Abuja.
In the Federal Capital Territory, the properties under scrutiny are those located in locations such as Maitama, Asokoro, Garki, and Wuse, among others.
In Lagos State, properties in areas such as Banana Island and environs, Magodo, Lekki, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island, among others, are under scrutiny.
The government has also beamed its searchlight on the North, South-East and South-South states.
It was learnt that tax records and bank account details of the property owners were being reviewed by the Project Lighthouse team.
Findings revealed that state governments, in their collaboration with the Federal Government, had provided electronic searchable database for both individual and corporate property owners.
Some of the information contained in the electronic searchable database are the name of the property owners, plot numbers, locations of the properties and certificates of occupancy numbers.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had last week said the government would name, shame and prosecute tax evaders who failed to take advantage of the amnesty programme to regularise their tax profiles.
Adeosun had stated that the Federal Government had the political will to prosecute tax evaders once the VAIDS was over by March 31, 2018.