Executive Chairman of the Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), Mr. Ayodele Zubair, has described the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) as the last chance for tax offenders to redeem themselves.
Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the International Conference of African Tax Administrations Forum (ATAF) holding in in Abuja, Zubair said the scheme could not have been introduced at a better time.
“VAIDS is a very good initiative undertaken by the present administration and headed by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. The whole idea is to bring a lot of Nigerians into the tax net and, by so doing, increase the tax base and the culture of paying taxes in Nigeria,” he explained.
He urged those with previously undeclared taxes and assets to voluntarily and truthfully declare such, as they will be absolved of all the income and penalties. While acknowledging the existence of mixed feelings about the scheme, Zubair advised that it is in the interest of tax offenders to embrace the scheme because it affords them the last opportunity to escape heavy sanctions.
“Government is going the whole hog at the end of the amnesty programme and all the people who have not voluntarily and truthfully disclosed all their untaxed incomes will surely face prosecution,” he warned. He added that government, at the federal and state levels, are committed to the success of VAIDS, warning offenders that there is a lot of information being shared locally and internationally on property ownership and other items.
“A lot of data mining is going on.. A lot of data is being mined on a daily basis, both locally and internationally, on property ownership and the likes. So, people who do not take advantage of this programme will certainly have themselves to blame in the future because the government has the will to prosecute all tax offenders and will do so,” he said.
When asked if Nigerians are ready for voluntary assets declaration, Mr. Zubair said a lot of people have started showing interest and trust in the scheme, which offers confidentiality and expressed belief that the sincerity of the government will arouse greater confidence in the scheme among Nigerians.
“All over the world, no one wants to pay taxes except they are forced to. But we are currently very positive about the success of the VAIDS programme. We have received a lot of feelers. It has generated a lot of enquiries. People are coming to us and want to know about the programme. They are willing to trust the system in terms of the confidentiality promised. Over time, more people will be convinced on the entire idea. Some people think it’s a trick to catch them out, but is not. This is an amnesty programme about which the government is very sincere about and people should take advantage of it.
Mr. Zubair added that VAIDS will help increase the country’s tax-to-Gross Domestic Ratio, which is one of the lowest in the world. Nigeria’s tax-to-GDP ratio currently stands at a measly 6 per cent. Compared to India’s at 16 per cent, Ghana’s 15.9 per cent and South Africa’s 27 per cent, the country occupies a basement position.