FG generates N17bn from tax amnesty programme
The federal government has so far generated about N17 billion from its tax amnesty programme and is expecting an additional N6 billion before end of December, 2017, Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Tunde Flower said on Thursday.
The money was pooled under the federal government’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme( VAIDS), launched midyear to increase tax awareness and compliance and particularly encourage citizens voluntarily declare and pay up their tax debts and get pardoned.
Finance minister, Kemi Adeosun said after last week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that government was targeting $1 billion from the scheme and also projected the possibility that the figure could be surpassed following the positive response received so far.
Adeosun stated then that the government had received $110, 000, 000, just coming from two companies, which contradicts the latest figures from the FIRS chairman.
Speaking in Abuja during the VAIDS workshop for media practitioners, Fowler said the N17 billion generated from VAIDS came from some of the 500 firms which government had earlier written to as he raised optimism that additional funds were being expected in days to come.
He said more firms are keen to seize window of opportunity offer by amnesty to regularize their tax status adding that they have engaged consultants to help in the job.
VAIDS is a nine-month limited opportunity by government for tax payers to regularize their tax status relating to previous tax period. 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 offences or be subject to tax investigation. The programme says the scheme also ushers in an opportunity to increase the nation’s general tax awareness and compliance.
According to Fowler, “Less than 500 firms have paid N17 billion and another N6 billion is being expected to be paid before the end of December”.
“In terms of number, we have not gotten the type of crucial number we envisaged. When we gave tax amnesty, we have 2,700 companies that applied for it, now we are talking about several companies that have come under VAIDS. A lot more is needed to be done, companies are asking questions, talking to our consultants, and we expect a whole lot more to come in as program gets to close”, he said.
He maintained that the March 2018 deadline for the programme would not be extended.
Fowler also hinted that the tax agency has identified 2,000 properties in various parts of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja whose owners neither pay taxes nor file returns on them.
“Should the owners of 2,000 properties refuse paying due taxes on them, FIRS will seek court’s approval to dispose of the properties,” he stated, adding “after netting off taxes due on them, the balance if any will be handed to their owners.
Also speaking at the event, Albert Folorunsho, Managing Consultant, Pedabo Associate Limited which is driving VAIDS dismissed the possibility that the process could be frustrated or scuttled by court litigations.
He said, “No new tax laws that have been put in place .VAIDS is a just a scheme to encourage tax payers to comply with existing tax laws. If you are liable to income tax, the rate remains the same. It’s like come voluntarily and pay within nine months before we begin to pursue you. If you decide not to come forward, no problem, after the grace period, you have to pay your tax including penalty after expiration of amnesty”, he said.
“Churches and mosque are exempted from taxes,” he further explained, adding, “however, any Church or mosque that engages in business, the income from business is liable to tax. If a clergy man earns income in his capacity as clergy man, either from the church or other sources, as an individual you are liable to tax. No exception in tax laws for clergy men. This is not for churches or mosques to begin to pay tax on their tithe or offerings. But if religion organizations set up schools for business, it has to pay tax on it”
On Property tax, he explained that the owner is required to pay tax on the income generated, be it an individual or company.
“Rent is a taxable income”, he said.
Onyinye Nwachukwu, Abuja
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