By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma and Wunmi Ashafa
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) says that the Federal Government has realised the sum of N17 billion from the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) inaugurated in July.
Mr Babatunde Flower, the FIRS Executive Chairman, said this in Lagos on Wednesday, at a media workshop on VAIDS.
Flower said that the N17 billion was voluntarily paid by some companies through VAIDS, an amnesty programme inaugurated by the government for taxpayers to regularise their tax status relating to previous tax periods.
According to him, the initiative is making progress as additional six billion naira is expected to be paid by some corporate bodies before the end of 2017.
Flower called on Nigerians to embrace VAIDS in order to benefit from the forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties before its expiration on March 31, 2018.
He said that Nigeria’s tax Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio at just six per cent, was one of the lowest in the world when compared to India’s 16 per cent, Ghana’s 15.9 per cent and South Africa’s 27 per cent.
Flower said that VAIDS was introduced to usher in an opportunity to increase the nation’s general tax awareness and compliance.
“VAIDS is a time-limited opportunity for taxpayers to regularise their tax status in exchange for fully and honestly declaring previously undisclosed assets and income.
“Tax payers will benefit from the forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties,’’ he said.
Mr Albert Folorunsho, the Managing Cousultant, Pedabo Professional Services, said that Nigerians should embrace the initiative while it last to regularise their tax status.
Speaking on the topic, “VAIDS: A Tax Amnesty Programme in Action”, Folorunsho said that the initiative was put together by the Ministry of Finance to ensure tax compliance without regulation.
He said that VAIDS offers an opportunity for taxpayers to redress themselves before government wields its big stick at the end of the nine months amnesty programme.
Folorunsho also said that it was introduced to act as immediate tax revenue to the government and to widen tax revenue.
He said that VAIDS would help boost the level of compliance to tax revenue contribution to the GDP.
Folorunsho said that the nation’s tax revenue contribution to GDP, standing between 5.9 per cent and six per cent was low when compared to South Africa, China and India.
According to him, those countries have 56 per cent, 11 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
He said that the government introduced the scheme to give Nigerians the opportunity to regularise their tax status voluntarily within the period while the programme was on.
Folorunsho, however, said that there would not be amnesty for late payment after the scheme had ended while enjoining people who front for others in businesses to transfer assets back to rightful owners.
Also speaking, Mr Grabriel Ogunjemilusi, Deputy Director, Tax Policy and Advisory Department, FIRS said that the scheme was not new as some countries had used it in the past to generate more revenues for developmental purposes.
Ogunjemilusi said Indonesia, one of the countries which had used the scheme was able to generate up to12 billion dollars in three different amnesty schemes.
He said that South African government also used the scheme to broaden the citizens’ compliance culture and the tax payers base.
The deputy director said that the country, being a member of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) and the nation’s compliance to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) would help to reduce tax evasion. (NAN)