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VAIDS: Fear grips tax debtors as amnesty window closure looms

By Elizabeth Ojo

 

 With less than a week to the end of the period afforded tax debtors to declare their indebtedness by the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), individual and corporate tax debtors have been approaching federal and state tax authorities to seek information on how to declare their previously unpaid taxes before the window shuts on 31 March.

The rush, according to the VAIDS office in the Federal Ministry of Finance, is on account of the fact that hidden assets and incomes have been discovered through the use of data obtained from a variety of sources, including government revenue-collecting agencies, bank verification numbers (BVN), payment platforms, land registries, Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the Corporate Affairs Commission.

Analysis of the data showed that lifestyle of many do not match the taxes paid. Those in these category have had nudge letters written to them to come forward and take advantage of the tax amnesty scheme, which gives them the opportunity to spread payment over a maximum three-year period, and have interests/penalties waived. Those who declare will equally escape prosecution, which the government has warned would follow at the closure of the window.

Speaking on government’s readiness to prosecute tax defaulters, Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, recently said the service has resources to prosecute those who fail to comply under VAIDS. According to Mr. Fowler, the agency increased its legal fees in its 2018 Budget in readiness for litigation arising from non-compliance with VAIDS.

Also recently, Mr. Ayodele Zubair, Chairman of the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), said the agency has been approached by many individuals and corporate organisations seeking to declare their indebtedness. The LIRS said he expects more declarers to come forward as the closure approaches, so as to enjoy the benefits of VAIDS, particularly freedom from prosecution.

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