FG insists no extension of tax amnesty programme
by ONYINYE NWACHUKWU, Abuja
November 9, 2017 | 5:20 pm| | | Start Conversation
The federal government will not extend its tax amnesty programme which commenced mid-year to encourage tax defaulters to voluntarily pay arrears without being punished.
Announcing this in Abuja on Thursday, Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, rather urged tax defaulters to take advantage of the government’s Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme before the March 31, 2018 expiration deadline.
He spoke in Abuja at a training workshop for professionals, advising clients on participation in the VAIDS initiative.
Launched on June 29, the VAIDS programme which is to run for eight months offers a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, for tax defaulters to voluntarily pay back to government what they owe. The programme is backed by an Executive Order signed by the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and targets the addition of at least 4million new tax payers to the database.
In exchange for fully and honestly declaring previously undisclosed assets and income, tax payers will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties, and the assurance that they will not face criminal prosecution for tax offenses or be subject to tax investigations.
Responding to an earlier request made by the President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Cyril Ede at the event that the deadline be extended to September 2018, the FIRS boss said those who do believe in the scheme would not declare their assets voluntarily even if the nine months grace period was to be extended by ten years.
He said, “This program will not be extended. It is a Federal Government’s initiative, it was adopted by the Senate, the House of Representatives and I think people who have an intention to do the right thing even if you give them six months would perform within six months.
“But for individuals or corporate organisation who have no intention of doing the right thing, even if you give them ten years, they would not perform within that period. Let us stick to this date and am aware that many people will like to wait to the last moment for the rush.”
Nigeria has made considerable progress in its tax administration mainly through taxing those in formal employment, self-employed persons, and professionals. But some companies and individuals are able to evade full tax payment due to the inability of the tax authorities to access and assess their true income and thereby tax them accurately.
At just 6 percent, Nigeria’s tax to GDP ratio, is one of the lowest in the world. Tax payers are only about 14 million out of the country’s over 70 million economically active population.
Speaking further at the event, Fowler said the Federal Government may offer defaulters with huge tax liabilities the opportunity to spread their tax payment under the VAIDS initiative.
He said this is one of the strategies of the government to ease the burden of those who might have taken advantage of the new tax scheme but have huge tax liabilities that may be difficult to offset at once.
Fowler said, “We should advise them (tax defaulters) that even if they declare, it doesn’t mean they have to make the payment on the day that they declared.
“They are still given time and so let them prepare themselves because there are possibilities of extending the payment time subject to the approval of the taxing authorities whether it is federal or states.
“There are also different way of cushioning the effect of payment and we have to realise and remember that you have to pay tax on profit on income and am sure we will have good success.”
He called for support from tax professionals to make the scheme successful, adding that through the initiative, the government intends to raise the level of revenue generation through taxes.
He said, “We have brought you here because we know that for this program to work, the Nigerian people need good advisers and this is one program they will require your services, your expertise and also your buy-in.
“This is a program that Nigeria needs very badly. For countries that have gone through this experience, they were in similar economic conditions and am very happy to say that all those countries have had some level of success.
“So I don’t see why Nigeria should be any different. At the same time, we do have laws in books that could prosecute these individuals or corporations but the question I will ask is how many people do you want to prosecute?
“How many companies do you want to close and I think that as they begin to understand that Nigeria as a country has bought into this scheme, we will get very good success.”
Earlier, Ede who spoke said that the CITN would support the tax initiative to succeed.
He, however, called for an extension of the deadline from March 31, 2018 to end of September 2018.
This, he noted would enable more tax defaulters to key into the program.
He argued that in South Africa where the tax compliance rate is higher than that of Nigeria, implemented the scheme under an eleven months time-frame.
He wondered the justification for Nigeria with a low tax compliance rate to implement similar program within nine months.
He said, “This kind of partnership underscores the fact that we believe in the VAIDS program and we have informed our members on the need to support the scheme.
“But we want the deadline of March 31 to be extended to September 2018 to allow many tax defaulters to regularised their positions.”
Big Read |