Indications emerged on Tuesday that based on rising pressure from some former governors, top politicians, high profile individuals, business owners and professional bodies, on the Ministry of Finance to give more time for the expiration of voluntary tax declaration window under the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) scheme, government towards the end of the month announce one month extension.
Business Hilights intelligence Unit (BHIU) gathered that the main reason why the target population of the VAIDS scheme was angling for extension was the height of surprises felt by many of the politicians, high net-worth individuals and business owners over the quantum of evidences the government was showing them about what they owned and where the assets were being kept.
Originally, the VAIDS offers a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for tax defaulters to voluntarily pay back to the government what they owe without any form of prosecution or interrogation.
By the structure of VAIDS, in what can be seen as an 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.
Besides, Nigerians who declare their tax obligations honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the nine-month grace period.
Already, a good number of serial tax defaulters had been identified and contacted by the VAIDS office following transaction data obtained from agencies of government such as the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Clearer details of high net worth Nigerians seem to have been accessed from several platforms including payment platforms such as the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System and Remita.
Besides, one of the VAIDS officials who spoke to Business Hilights Abuja Bureau chief confided in him that there searchlight had extended to property owners in highbrow areas across the country, saying “that singular inclusion may form part of the reasons why the authorities may consider a possible extension of the grace period, may be by just one month”.
“Recall that the Federal Government, through Project Lighthouse, had received documents on property owners from state governments and we are working on shocking revelations coming from the document.
“You may be shocked that there are several current top government officials that are already in the net of the new drive on choice property owners under VAIDS programme.
An issue of note was the position of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun at the Kaduna tax forum where she averred that the government would name, shame and prosecute tax evaders who failed to take advantage of the amnesty programme under the VIADS to regularise their tax profiles.
According to her, “The Federal Government has the political will and data to go after tax evaders who fail to take advantage of the tax amnesty programme. Many Nigerians cannot explain their lifestyles or match their lifestyles, assets and incomes with their tax payment.
“We will close VAIDS at the expiry of the programme on March 31, 2018. And once the programme is closed, we will name and shame and prosecute tax evaders.”