The federal government yesterday disclosed that it has identified a new batch of over 130,000 high net worth individuals and companies with potential tax underpayments. It identified the common violations by non-compliant tax payers to include under-declaration of and non-declaration of income earned, collection of Value Added Tax, VAT, charging of non-allowable personal expenses to company accounts, particularly with reference to overseas school fees and inconsistency between income declared for tax purposes and the value of assets owned.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, who stated this while featuring on the Good Morning Nigeria programme of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, disclosed that Project Lighthouse was currently compiling the data in preparation for the closure of the ongoing Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS, which ends on March 31, 2018. Project Lighthouse is a unique project of the Federal Ministry of Finance that combines data from federal and state agencies as well as from abroad. It can be recalled that the federal government had expressed its resolve to from the 1st of April begin the prosecution, naming and shaming of tax evaders who failed to utilise the tax amnesty programme.
According to the minister, “The data have been received from a number of sources, including land registries of the Governments of Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory. “In addition, Nigeria has been able to request data from a number of nations, including traditional tax havens. The data have been received from a number of foreign jurisdictions under the exchange of information protocols. “Under the exchange of information protocols, this information relates to bank records and financial filings for tax purposes and is obtained from tax havens who are signatories to the information sharing agreements such as British Virgin Islands and Mauritius.”
Adeosun further stated that the data received from other countries would only be used for taxation purposes in line with the protocols governing the exchange of information. She said, “the sole interest of the federal and state governments in the use of the data is in raising tax revenues. There is absolutely no hidden agenda on the use of the data”.
The minister however hailed the ‘unprecedented’ level of cooperation between the federal and state governments, which she said is a marked change from the past when the various arms of government did not align their efforts.