Tax evasion: Nigerian government to target property owners in highbrow areas

Property owners in highbrow areas across the country are now targets of federal and state governments tax agencies determined to stop tax evaders.

Presidency sources told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday in Abuja that government searchlight was now beamed on this class of property owners seen as the worst tax offenders.

The source who requested not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press on the matter said attention would be on properties located in prime locations like Asokoro, Maitama, Garki 2 and Wuse 2 in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Other locations also targeted, the source said, include those in Banana Island and environs, Victoria Island, Lekki Peninsula, Ikoyi and Magodo in Lagos State.

Property owners in choice locations in states in the South-east and South-south geopolitical zones would also be affected.

On July 1, 2017, the federal government launched a tax amnesty programme for taxpayers who defaulted in their obligations.

Under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), the affected taxpayers were granted nine months grace period to regularise their status.

The amnesty period is expected to end by March 31.

Already, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun said last week government was not contemplating any extension of the deadline.

The Minister said government was determined to begin the prosecution, naming and shaming of tax evaders who fail to utilise the tax amnesty window to regularise their status beginning April 1.

But, the Presidency source said the federal tax authorities were liaising with the various state governments through their data-mining agency, “Project Lighthouse” to collect title documents on property owners across nationwide.

“The state governments have realised they would be the prime beneficiaries of an enhanced tax revenue expected from the VAIDS exercise”, the source said.

“Therefore, they are enthusiastic and willing to put at our disposal all tax records and bank account details of these property owners. These documents are currently being reviewed by the “Project Lighthouse” team,” he said.

Besides, the source said some state governments have also provided electronic searchable database of individual and corporate property owners in their domains, including key information like name of property owners, plot numbers, locations and Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) numbers.

He said the decision to go after property owners in highbrow areas across the country was informed by the observation that most owners of these assets hardly maintained lifestyles reflecting their current tax payment status.

The decision to stretch the searchlight to property owners followed the discovery by the government that the bulk of these assets were linked to Illicit Financial Flow (IFF) activities.

“Most of these people divert their incomes into the development of these properties, which they are not paying taxes on,” the source said.

This article was originally published on by Bassey Udo.

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