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VAIDS: FG uncovers more prominent tax defaulters

VAIDS: FG uncovers more prominent tax defaulters

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Ifeanyi Onuba

The Federal Government has identified fresh defaulting taxpayers and dispatched letters to them to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme in regularising their tax status.

Investigation by our correspondent on Friday in Abuja revealed that fresh letters had been dispatched to many high net-worth individuals to come forward and take advantage of the scheme ahead of the March 31 deadline.

The VAIDS programme 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 imposed and also waive the interest that should have been paid on overdue tax.

Also, those who declare their tax obligation honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the nine-month grace period.

Sources at VAIDS office in the Federal Ministry of Finance told our correspondent that the decision to write more tax offenders was taken following transaction data obtained from agencies of government such as the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Communications Commission.

It was learnt that through payment platforms such as Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System, and Remita, the government was able to identify more tax-defaulting companies.

The source said, “Since October last year, the VAIDS office has been collating financial data of all taxpayers in the country by liaising with the various state governments and revenue-generating agencies.

“Data obtained from these agencies will be used to determine companies that have failed to remit taxes on earned income, including those with undeclared assets and corporate organisations that have collected taxes on behalf of government without remitting.

“Income and transaction data obtained from a variety of sources have helped VAIDS identify tax debtors, who have been receiving nudge letters notifying them of the need to declare before the closure of the window on 31 March.

“VAIDS is currently sending out more letters to other identified defaulters based on transaction data obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Communications Commission, and the Nigerian Customs Service.

“Nigerians who own properties abroad have also been inundating the VAIDS office with calls, asking for an extension of the deadline.

“The calls, in part, have to do with a new law introduced by the United Kingdom, which requires foreigners with properties in the UK to explain the sources of their wealth or risk forfeiture.

“Data on Nigerian owners of properties abroad are already with the VAIDS office.”

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, last week explained that the government through the VAIDS tax amnesty programme was targeting fresh four million taxpayers.

She said the programme was targeted at increasing the taxpayer base, raising revenue and regularising the tax status of many Nigerians.

She noted that the scheme was aimed at raising at least $1bn for the government, adding that more Nigerians had indicated interest in taking advantage of the opportunity.

She said, “We are using technology to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the programme. Project Light House is using advanced data mining and data analytics techniques to identify tax defaulters, establish their tax liabilities and send notifications.

“The system-wide computer software, which drives Project Lighthouse, aggregates data from multiple sources such as bank accounts, land registry records, company registration data, tax filings, customs’ records, asset ownership records, among others, to identify, profile and track tax evaders.”

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