…Gets data from Federal, state agencies, foreign countries
Uche Usim, Abuja
As the war against tax defaulters gets fiercer, Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, Tuesday said the government has identified a fresh batch of over 130,000 high networth individuals and companies whose records show huge underpayment and low tax declarations.
Adeosun, who made the revelation in a television programme in Abuja, said the discovery sprang up from government’s data mining machinery.
According to her, the data was currently being compiled by Project Lighthouse in preparation for the closure of the ongoing Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), on March 31, 2018.
Project Lighthouse, she said, is a brainchild of the Federal Ministry of Finance that combines data from Federal and State agencies and some government agencies overseas.
She said, “The data have been received from a number of sources including land registries of the Governments of Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
“In addition, Nigeria has been able to request data from a number of nations including traditional tax havens. The data have been received from a number of foreign jurisdictions under the exchange of information protocols.
“Under the exchange of information protocols, this information relates to bank records and financial filings for tax purposes and is obtained from tax havens that are signatories to the information sharing agreements such as British Virgin Islands and Mauritius.”
She explained that the data received from overseas countries would only be used for taxation purposes in line with the protocols governing the exchange of information
“The sole interest of the Federal and State Governments in the use of the data is to raise tax revenues. There is absolutely no hidden agenda on the use of the data,” she added.
Adeosun hailed the ‘unprecedented’ level of cooperation between the Federal and State Governments, which she said was a marked change from the past when the various arms of government did not align their efforts.
The Minister identified the common violations by non-compliant tax payers to include:Under-declaration and non-declaration of income earned including income from government contracts and overseas trading; Collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) which is not duly remitted to FIRS; charges on non-allowable personal expenses to company accounts particularly with reference to overseas school fees; as well as inconsistency between income declared for tax purposes and the value of assets owned.
She advised non-compliant tax payers to seek professional advice and to also consult relevant literature available from the tax authorities on tax rules.
The Minister underscored the Federal Government’s commitment to raising tax revenues which are essential to grow the economy and create jobs for Nigerians.
Asked if the Federal Government would extend the deadline of the tax amnesty programme, the Minister ruled out such proposition, saying sufficient period had been given to tax payers to voluntarily and truthfully declare their assets and income previously undeclared.