A total of N20bn has so far been realised from 262 taxpayers who have declared their assets under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme by the Federal Government.
The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Babatunde Fowler gave the figure on Wednesday night while featuring on a live television programme, ‘The Core’, which aired on Channels Television.
The programme also featured the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, among other panellists.
The VAIDS offers a grace period of nine months 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 levied and the interest that should have been paid on overdue taxes.
Also, those who declare their tax obligations honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the grace period.
Fowler stated that as the scheme was approaching the deadline, there were lots of people who would take advantage of the scheme.
He said, “On the federal level, people have declared and paid N20bn; and one thing I will let you know is that based on the experiences of other countries, usually people wait till the last minute.
“In terms of applications received at the federal level, about 262 applications. So far paid is N20bn and people are still in the process of putting together their facts and in the next two or three weeks, the figures will be different.”
He added that the government had identified properties worth over N2tn in Abuja whose owners were not paying taxes.
He added that if those who owned the properties fail to regularise their status, the properties would be sold by the government after obtaining court orders on them.
Fowler said, “We have identified properties worth N2tn that belong to corporate organisations that have never filed any tax and now we are in the process of getting a court order to start selling those properties if the owners do not come and pay the taxes.
“And this is a programme we going to roll over across the whole country and we’ve concluded in Kaduna and in Lagos, and we are going to other states.”
Adeosun added that the government was committed to implementing the VAIDS as the country had one of the lowest tax to Gross Domestic Product ratio in the world.
She lamented that out of the 14 million taxpayers in the country, about 13.5 million were paying through the Pay-As-You-Earn scheme.
This, she said, implied that many people in the informal sector had yet to start paying taxes.
According to her, many high net-worth individuals are not paying taxes, adding that the government was in possession of data to prosecute them at the expiration of the tax amnesty programme.
Adeosun stated, “The extent of non-compliance is so huge and we have given people who have compliance issues to declare without prosecution or paying interest
“Our tax to GDP ratio is low and it’s not because we don’t have tax laws, but because people are not complying.”
She said the government had no political undertone in the implementation of the VAIDS, adding that the confidentiality of those who declared would be protected.
The minister stated that the effective implementation of the VAIDS would restore the efficiency of the country’s tax system.
Adeosun explained that an efficient tax system would ensure more revenue for the government, stating that officials of government who collect tax revenues without remitting same would be dealt with.
This article was originally published on punchng.com, by Ifeanyi Onuba.