As the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) began to dispatch letters of tax notice to listed 500 prominent Nigerians with property and trusts abroad, on Monday, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun has made it clear that those in similar category who are yet to be profiled should not assume that government has missed them.
The letters will serve as official notice to determine their tax compliance status at home.
She said “Our analysis found out that only 241 people in the whole country were paying N200,000 or more. South Africa has 950,000 people paying that amount.”
Adeosun, during a chat with journalists in Lagos on Friday said that the policy was already paying off as the ministry received $110,000,000 from just two firms. “We have had very good response from companies, so far,” she said, stressing that data-driven compliance will, over time, ease Nigeria’s debt burden and cut budget deficits.
“The problem was that before, for example, if you lived in Lagos or you ran a company, Lagos didn’t know that you were running a business in Abuja,” Adeosun said. “Lagos didn’t know that you had a property abroad; it didn’t know that you had moved money to Dubai. Lagos State, for example, didn’t have jurisdiction to go to those areas to claim you were resident in Lagos. So, there were so many loopholes that largely no one was really paying the right taxes
“The first 500 letters are ready and will go out this week, but there are many more. Receiving the letter is not an accusation of deliberate wrongdoing, but rather a notice that the data suggests possible underpayment and a prompt to check compliance.
According to him, “It is premature to call such persons tax evaders as there are many reasons taxpayers may have failed to comply. We will only label people as real tax evaders when the amnesty deadline expires and they have failed to regularise.
“Such persons can then legitimately be called tax evaders, as their non-participation in VAIDS indicates that they are willful tax evaders. We will then proceed to apply the full weight of the law.“We are also sending out thousands of letters to those in the high-risk categories, but our advice is that every person and every company should do a self-assessment and take advantage of VAIDS to correct any under-declaration, irrespective of whether they get a letter or not,” she said.
Continuing, she averred that about 1,710 out of 2,190 Community Tax Liaison Officers (CTLOs) have been deployed in 33 states. The CTLOs, trained and recruited under the VAIDS, will form a rallying point for tax information and data dissemination needed for both the government and taxpayers.
The minister also confirmed the review of tax profiles of companies that received major payments from the Federal Government in the last five years. Adeosun reiterated that the revolutionary programme provides tax defaulters a nine-month opportunity to voluntarily and truthfully declare previously untaxed assets and incomes, urging all to comply as the window would compulsorily close at the end of March next year.