Uche Usim, Abuja
Nigerians who own undisclosed properties in the United Kingdom have entered into panic mode as the Federal Government has latched on to new UK regulations called the Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) to assess properties, locations and tax compliance levels.
Consequently, many Nigerians nationals who have defaulted in their tax obligations and fear losing their properties to the UK Government, have inundated the Federal Ministry of Finance’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) hotlines with calls, causing the lines to crash last Friday.
Top government sources told Daily Sun on Sunday that many rich Nigerians (including a governor) with properties and businesses stashed overseas have appealed to the Federal Government to extend the March 31 deadline of VAIDS to give them more time to regularize their taxes.
The source said:
“The unprecedented level of calls was not unconnected with the new UK regulation with regard to UWOs. The confidential hotlines were provided to enable the booking of appointments. But it had received massive calls and frantic requests from tax payers in the last 72 hours, asking for extension of time to complete their VAIDS declaration forms.
The UK Government had last week introduced a new law that requires foreign owners of properties in the country to explain the source of their funds or risk forfeiting them to the Government under UWOs.
According to the new law, the UWOs can be obtained for any property or combination of properties valued at just £50,000 (about N25 million) or more, for which the owner is unable to explain legal source of funds.
The UWO law, coupled with the revelation that many foreign governments are automatically sharing bank and property information with Nigeria, has resulted in an upsurge in enquiries about the VAIDs programme.
VAIDS allows Nigerian tax payers to restate their income and assets without limit and thus could potentially allow those who own property that cannot be explained by their previously declared income to regularise by declaring and paying the correct taxes.