Juliana Taiwo Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has overruled the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which had earlier foreclosed any extension beyond the March 31, 2018, deadline for the enforcement of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
Buhari approved the extension of VAIDS to June 30, 2018, but with a warning that there would be no further extension after the new date.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement said the short extension after the original March 31 date is based on the appeals of professional bodies and individual taxpayers.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, had in December disclosed that the tax amnesty granted by Federal Government under VAIDS, raked in N17 billion between June and December 2017.
According to the statement, the President added that a new date was also given based on the conviction of the Ministry of Finance that the overall objective to increase compliance will be attained, and additional revenue will accrue.
It also states that a fresh Executive Order will be made to give legal backing to the new timeline.
According to President Buhari, “For a nation of people who are competitive and driven, it is not a pride that we are the lowest performer in tax to GDP, not just in Africa, but in the world.
“Nigeria’s growth needs are such that every Nigerian must do his duty to his nation, to his neighbour, and to himself.
“Hiding monies overseas, evading taxes by manipulation, and other unwholesome practices, have never developed a country, and for Nigeria to attain her true potential, these must stop.”
Buhari urged Nigerian companies and individuals to join government in the rebuilding mission, “and do the right thing by taking this window of extension to regularize.”
He added that the right thing may not be convenient or comfortable, “but in the long run, we will all have a nation we can be proud of.”
President Buhari further urged tax authorities to use the extension window to perfect plans to prosecute those who fail to regularize their tax status.
VAIDS is one of the key policies being used by the Federal Government to reposition the Nigerian economy and correct inherited underdevelopment.
The country has one of the lowest tax collection rates in the world at just 6% of GDP. This was partially a function of the reliance on oil that saw us abandon the historical revenue collection systems and switch to a culture of sharing resources, rather than generating them.
President Buhari had last year launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), and the VAIDS tax amnesty is first in the series of reforms that will transform our tax system and provide sustainable predictable funding for all tiers of government.
Tax revenues will ensure that public infrastructure is provided, and public services are funded to improve the lives of the people.
Taxes redistribute wealth from those who have more to those who have less, and VAIDS is one of the windows to achieve such.