Oseni Salawe Elamah, Executive Secretary of the Joint Tax Board (JTB), has disclosed that state governments will reap huge benefits from the implementation of Voluntary Assets and Income (VAIDS), an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Finance. Speaking in Abuja yesterday, Elamah explained that VAIDS, was conceived to ensure that individuals and corporate entities are given a time-limited opportunity to voluntarily declare their income and assets as basis for tax assessment. This, he said will greatly benefit all tax authorities, especially at the state level.
According to Elamah, the decline in oil revenues, the major source of funding to states, has made it imperative for state governments to pay more attention to taxation, a more reliable and sustainable basis of generating revenue.
“Whatever taxes that have not being paid previously on assets and income are assessed and paid in order to avoid legal actions and then penalties and interest will also be waived. The taxable entities or individuals reside in states and the tax authorities have the responsibility to subject them to tax payment,” he said.
The JTB, an umbrella of all revenue collection agencies in the country, Elamah added, will help coordinate the collaboration among the various tax authorities, including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and State Boards of Inland Revenue (SBIRs) and that of the Federal Capital Territory to ensure successful implementation of VAIDS.
“We have information on Nigerians, who have acquired a lot of assets and incomes that are not known to the tax authorities. This window provides an opportunity for us to have an exchange of information. Based on the information, the data will be used to assess both corporate and individuals,” explained Elamah.
He observed that tax education and data collection are crucial to the implementation of VAIDS, advising state governments to ramp up their data collection and enlightenment efforts. “Data mining is extremely important. States in Nigeria have different levels of development. So while it is easy for a Lagos State or River State or Kano State to collect data, it is not same for some other states.
I believe that with what is being done at the Federal Inland Revenue Service and what has already succeeded the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) when the current JTB Chairman, Mr. Tunde Fowler, was the Executive Chairman of the LIRS, is to have tax enlightenment and enforcement teams.
“If every state can replicate that, it will help in mining information. In Lagos for instance, It is not only for collecting taxes. It is also to meet the stakeholders in their various locations to obtain data and information. These data were fed back into the system and this gave Lagos huge number of taxpayers. The number of taxpayers in the whole of the country is not up to 50 per cent of what you have in Lagos. So we have to do a lot of work and that is the reason we are trying as much as possible to carry every of the state revenue authority along and give them the necessary tools and assistance to sensitize their people and be able to collect this data,” Elamah further explained.
The Secretary also noted that data is now more easily obtainable through the use of technological tools and adequately trained field officers, who are crucial to the process. He equally promised the the JTB will eliminate the incidence of double taxation by ensuring the uniformity of procedures and processes of various tax authorities involved in VAIDS implementation.
Elamah added that doubts about the workability of VAIDS are being tackled through various enlightenment initiatives to improve education on what the scheme entails. He noted that Tax Thursday, which is part of the scheme, provides additional opportunity for various tax authorities to engage various stakeholders in the revenue chain and enlighten them about the provisions of the VAIDS.
He advised individuals and corporate entities with undeclared assets and income to take advantage of the window offered by VAIDS, as federal and state tax authorities will use information gathered, in line with the provisions of the law, to enforce payment after the window closes.
“What happens afterwards is that the tax authority will now take all this information and go with the provisions of the law to enforce it and I believe that if every state tax authority follows the same route or leverage on the FIRS through the JTB collaboration, they can enforce tax collection. For instance, if company A is non-tax compliant and a non-compliance tax sticker has been placed there, the issues to be demanded on that company will not just be company income tax or value added tax, but also personal income tax of their employees. And until the company clears all its tax obligations, it is not tax compliant either to the FIRS or state tax authorities,” Elamah stated.
VAIDS, an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Finance, offers individuals and corporate entities with previously undeclared assets and income a time-limited opportunity to honestly declare such and pay taxes on them. VAIDS-compliant taxpayers will avoid paying interest and penalties on previously unpaid taxes, tax audits and prosecution, benefits that will not be enjoyed by the non-compliant at the expiration of the window.