The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, yesterday advised wealthy Nigerians to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) to regularise their tax status and escape unsavoury consequences.
A statement from the VAIDS office quoted Mrs Adeosun as saying in her speech in Enugu during the hosting of VAIDS by the Enugu State governor, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, that the federal government had compiled data on property, bank accounts, shareholdings and other income sources of individuals and corporate entities.
“From our records, there seems to be a few big men and big women from this part of the country who may need to think very carefully about making a VAIDS declaration. We have been compiling data on property, bank accounts, share holdings and other sources that suggest that many people have not been paying the right taxes. VAIDS is an opportunity to regularize,” she stated.
The minister alleged that some wealthy Nigerians had moved huge sums of monies out of Nigeria without paying any tax on them, warning that such people would soon be exposed.
“The good news for government, which is bad news for the tax evaders, is that globally, nations have agreed to share data under the Automatic Exchange of Information. This means that while sitting at our desks in Abuja, we are getting information about assets that the owners thought were well hidden from the tax authorities.
“As you know, Nigerians are entitled to keep their wealth anywhere in the world, including under their mattress, but what the law requires is that they pay tax on their income as they earn it,” stated the minister.
She lamented that Nigeria had a poor scorecard in tax payment. “When oil came, we abandoned the old systems of tax collection that had provided most of our infrastructure since colonial days. Currently, we have just 14 million taxpayers out of 70m who are economically active.
Actually, we have 74m registered voters. So many who should be paying are not paying anything.
“Also, some who are paying something are not paying the correct amount. It may seem smart for a businessman to get a tax clearance certificate for N200,00 when he earns millions, but I can tell you without fear of contradiction that not only is this illegal, such people are cheating themselves and future generations,” she said.