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Nigerian govt hints on plans for tax offenders from April 1

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Nigerian govt hints on plans for tax offenders from April 1

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has hinted of plans by the Federal Government to set up special courts to prosecute tax offenders that fail to take advantage of the nine-month amnesty window provided by the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which expires on March 31.

This was as she disclosed that the Federal Government has already identified 130,000 high profile individuals involved in tax offences.

Adeosun made these known on Tuesday in Abuja when she appeared on a live breakfast show, ‘Good Morning Nigeria’, aired by the Nigerian Television Authority, insisting that from April 1, that government will start the prosecution of tax defaulters.

The Federal Government through VAIDS offered a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for tax defaulters to voluntarily pay back to government what they owe. It promised that it will in exchange for full and honest declaration, waive penalties that should have been levied and the interest that should have been paid on overdue taxes.

Government further promised that those who will declare their tax obligations honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the nine-month grace period.

However, following the refusal of many of the defaulters to use the amnesty opportunity to remedy their tax payment, the minister said that the Federal Government will from April 1 spare no tax defaulter, regardless of their status in the society.

“We have found a lot of companies in their thousands, which have not either paid anything (as taxes) or under-declared. We have somebody who got a contract from the government for billions of naira and (when) we checked his tax status, he never declared that money.

“After March 31, we have plans to do special tax courts and accelerated prosecution because the thing with tax prosecution is that it is a very simple case with no defence to it. It’s a matter of law; the question to ask is: ‘Did you pay or not?’ So it’s a very easy case and it’s not like the EFCC cases that we will have to be tracing this or that.

“The focus on tax collection remains after VAIDS. Yesterday, we were analysing data and now we have flagged over 130,000 already, and from March 31, we will start and say these people did not participate in VAIDS and this is the data we have on them, now pursue them.

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“There can be no sacred cows and nobody should be too big or too small to be told to do the right thing. People must as they earn money pay a portion of it; and so, the focus on tax will continue,” she said.

On multinational companies colluding with tax officials to manipulate the tax system in Nigeria she said, “On the issue of multinationals, what we’ve found out is that they are not paying the right taxes and they are sometimes the ones colluding with tax officers here to minimise their taxes and we feel that is a corrupt practice.

“In the United States, if you offer a bribe, it’s an offence and we feel that going to another country and deliberately manipulating the tax system so as not to pay from that country where you are earning so much will also be labelled in that category.”

Asked if the Federal Government has any plans to extend the tax amnesty programme beyond the March 31 deadline, she said there was no such plan.

 

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