The Nigerian Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) is a time-limited opportunity for taxpayers to regularize their tax status relating to previous tax periods and pay any taxes due. In exchange for fully and honestly declaring previously undisclosed assets and income, tax payers will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties, and the assurance they do not face criminal prosecution for tax offences or tax investigations.
The aim of VAIDS is to provide taxpayers with a time-limited opportunity to regularize their tax status relating to previous tax periods and pay any taxes due. In exchange for fully and honestly declaring previously undisclosed assets and income, tax payers will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties, and the assurance they do not face criminal prosecution for tax offences or tax investigations.
Some private sector players are said to be lobbying President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the amnesty period as the Saturday March 31st deadline set for tax amnesty under the VAIDS has come and gone.
An official at the Presidency, alleged that governors and company owners had called the President and Vice President to push for the extension of the programme.
“We are expecting Mr President to make an announcement on the tax amnesty deadline.
“To be frank and honest, nobody knows whether the President will decide to extend it or not, but there has been calls by state governors and key private sector players calling for the extension.
“However, it still remains unclear if the President will take the recommendation to extend it by another three months, since he had been advised otherwise by the Minister of Finance and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) chairman,’’ the source said.
Meanwhile, the Adamawa state Commissioner for Finance, Mahmoud Yunusa, recently revealed that many of the states were in support of extending the tax amnesty past the March 31 deadline.
“It should be extended because people are just beginning to buy into the programme. We see people coming up willingly to declare their assets and it shouldn’t end soon.
“Nigerians deserve more time and I believe that some of them are still collating their assets to know their worth before doing so.
“Also, some haven’t declared because they operate businesses without any formal documentation so it will take time before they get their books in order.
“So it’s my opinion that extending it for another six months would ensure better success,’’ he said.
Yunusa lauded the programme, saying that in Adamawa State, it had helped the state to improve its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by more than 200 per cent despite still recovering from insurgency and recession.
Also, Tunde Dare, an economist, held the view that the VAIDS programme should be extended.
“Even though I think the programme should be extended, I think the government went about this business of tax amnesty the wrong way.
“I think the scheme should be aimed at capturing more people into the scheme without asking them to pay backlog of taxes,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, on the last working day before the expiration of the programme, many accountants and lawyers stormed the offices of the FIRS to submit applications of their clients.
Many of the tax defaulters, who had thought that the amnesty programme would be extended, were making last minute efforts to key into the scheme.
The VAIDS programme was launched on July 1, 2017 and was expected to last for nine months.
The government threatened to prosecute tax evaders that do not take advantage of the scheme thereby risking imprisonment of up to five years.
According to the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, the Federal Government had the political will as well as the means to gather evidence that will enable it to prosecute tax evaders.
She once said that using Project Lighthouse, a data mining agency, the government had been gathering information from different sources to enable it to identify and properly prosecute tax evaders after the expiration of the deadline.
She said information had so far been gathered from Bank Verification Number records, engagement with foreign private investigation firms on a retainership to trace assets of Nigerians abroad.
Also, the Federal Government plans to use the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit records and land ownership records in locations like Maitama, Asokoro, Garki, Wuse, Banana Island, Magodo, Lekki, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island.
The government further plans to beam its searchlights on people that over the years have received major payments from it or foreign exchange allocation and also people with private jets.
Also, the Federal Government have agreements with many foreign governments like the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom to get records of Nigerians with property there.
The government also threatened to go after Nigerians who frequent tax havens as mentioned in the panama paper leaks.