Tax defaulters in the country risk at least five years jail and asset forfeiture, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, disclosed yesterday.
Her warning is coming even as the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, will on Thursday, June 29, launch the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), a new tax reform programme of the Federal Government aimed at increasing tax awareness and compliance.
The new initiative will grant tax payers a grace period to regularise their tax status without penalty.
The Minister, in a statement in Abuja yesterday said: “Punishment for evasion is severe. All tax evaders, when identified, are subject to the full force of Nigerian and international law, including imprisonment of up to five years. There are also extra severe penalties of up to 100 per cent of the outstanding tax due, compound interest at 21 per cent per annum and forfeiture of assets.
“The plan to be executed jointly by federal and state governments, concentrates on the national duty of all Nigerian companies and citizens to pay their taxes wherever their income is earned, wherever they reside and no matter how rich they are,” she stated.
Adeosun added that tax evasion leaves an unfair burden of payment on the poorest Nigerians.
She, however, expressed joy that regulatory change was enabling easier access to information across the world for government to track taxable obligations of the citizens.
She said: “International agreements effective 2018 make the exchange of banking information across borders automatic. Nigeria has signed agreements with a number of nations (US, UK, Canada, UAE, Switzerland, Mauritius, Panama and Bahamas) – all of whom have pledged support and cooperation to exchange information on citizens that is relevant for tax purposes.”
The Minister revealed that tax evaders who want to avoid the full force of the law have between July 1 and December 31, 2017 to regularise their tax status in exchange for immunity from prosecution of tax offences and a tax audit, and be absolved from penalty charges and interests.
She further revealed that the government would recruit experts to assist in investigating and tracing assets owned by Nigerians.
She said the government targets at least $1 billion from this initiative, assuring that the funds would be judiciously and transparently spent.