Connect with us

NEWS

Tax evaders have two months left to pay through VAIDS or risk severe punishment – FG

Published

on

The Federal Government launched the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) on June 29, 2017 to address the problem of low tax compliance in the country and to generate the much-needed revenue for public expenditure.

The launch was greeted with mixed feelings, with some people questioning the rationale behind granting amnesty to tax evaders, while others considered the initial nine-month deadline for compliance too long. The scheme outlined government’s plan to grant tax payers a time-limited opportunity to regularise their status without penalty.

The plan, being executed in collaboration with 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.

It was predicated on a low six per cent tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, considered one of the lowest globally.  It has been designed to raise the ratio to about 15 per cent by 2020, just two years from now. Another basis for the scheme is that tax evasion leaves an unfair burden of payment on those who can afford it least – Nigeria’s poorest people.

Taxation is generally considered a fair means of wealth redistribution as high net worth individuals pay higher than low-income earners. VAIDS provides a one-off opportunity for evaders to avoid the wrath of the law. Between July 1 and December 31, 2017, evaders were encouraged to regularise their tax status in exchange for immunity from prosecution, tax audit and be absolved from penalty charges and interest.

Evaders who delayed participation beyond December 31, 2017 were projected to pay interest on overdue tax balances. Those willing to participate could enter into an arrangement to pay in instalments of several tranches. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, explaining the scheme, noted that the behaviour of some of the nation’s richest citizens and multinationals operating in Nigeria, who seemed to consider paying tax to be optional, could no longer be tolerated.

No hiding place

The Federal Government has, meanwhile, signed data exchange agreements with several countries including the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Switzerland, Mauritius, Panama and Bahamas.

These are some of the countries that some wealthy Nigerians are said to have both cash and houses hidden. Under the agreements, there is an exchange of banking information on cash and assets such as landed properties owned by Nigerians in those countries. This strategy has created a “no hiding place” challenge for tax evaders residing in Nigeria or abroad.

The Federal Government has also put in place a data mining mechanism to fish them out. It is expected that at least US$1 billion (about N360 billion) could be raised from the scheme which will reduce Nigeria’s borrowing needs, allow investment in vital infrastructure and spur development.

Speaking at its launch, the Minister of Finance, had said, “During the last eight years, Nigeria has failed to reduce its debt levels despite high oil prices and nominal GDP growth. We have inherited a situation where our debt and underdevelopment is getting worse, not better.

This cannot continue. “Neither can the behaviour of some of our richest citizens and multinationals operating in Nigeria – who seem to consider paying tax to be optional. From 2018, international law will make it easier than ever to track these evaders down and punish them. “

This scheme is in line with similar initiatives launched in 2016 in India, Indonesia and South Africa. We know they work, we know it’s the right thing to do and the Treasury desperately needs the money.”

In a recent address, Mrs. Adeosun said, “The unique cooperation between the various arms of the Federal Government and foreign governments has provided an unprecedented level of data that allows the Nigerian government to profile taxpayers accurately and identify those whose lifestyle and assets are not consistent with their declared income.

“A lot of data mining is going on daily, both locally and internationally, on property ownership and other items. Data is an extremely powerful tool that is now being utilized. For instance, we have reviewed all companies that received major payments from the Federal Government in the last five years and found that even those who made money from government under-declared.

“On personal income taxes, we reviewed property and company ownership as well as registration of high value assets and foreign exchange allocations, which gives us a sense of the lifestyles of the persons.

“But again, we found major non-compliance. In some cases, people declared as little as N10 million as income but purchased expensive property overseas and in Nigeria, registered high specification vehicles and funded luxurious personal events costing multiples of the declared income”.

Looming prosecution/severe punishment

Those who ignore VAIDS risk criminal prosecution as from July 1, 2018. Severe punishment is planned for tax evaders at the end of the amnesty period as they face imprisonment of up to five years, severe extra penalties – up to 100% of the outstanding tax due – compound interest at 21% per annum as well as forfeiture of assets Mrs. Adeosun told journalists, penultimate Friday, that government officials had been working assiduously, preparing cases against tax evaders which would begin in July. (Vanguard)

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

INVESTIGATION

Insiders reveal: NHIS Chairman fighting Executive Secretary for exposing N1.5bn fraud, others

Published

on

The resolve of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf to re-accredit the Health Management Organizations(HMOs) and ensure the implementation of a security report which mandated the ES to recover the sum of N1.05 billion allegedly embezzled by some HMOs may have pitched him against the Chairman of the NHIS Council, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne, this newspaper has learnt.
The executive secretary was last Thursday reportedly suspended indefinitely on the order of the council chairman ostensibly to allow unfettered investigation into a petition said to have been written against him some staff of the NHIS.
In a letter signed by its Chairman, Dr Eyantu Ifenne, the Council said “in line with the public service rule 030406, has resolved to suspend you, Professor Usman Yusuf, indefinitely with effect from 18th October 2018 to allow for a comprehensive and unfettered investigation of the issues in the petitions against you.”
However, staff of the organization kicked against the suspension claiming it was a unilateral decision by the chairman as seven out of the 11 council members reportedly walked out of the meeting. A senior Director of the organization instructed to take over from the ES in acting capacity also reportedly declined the offer in solidarity with staff.
In his response to the letter of suspension, Prof. Yusuf stated that contrary to the claims of the council that the NHIS Act and the Public Service Rules no.030406 conferred on it the power to suspend the executive secretary, it had no such powers, stressing that only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could order the suspension or removal of the ES.
Insiders with knowledge of the in-fighting in the NHIS explained that there was no love lost between the chairman of the council and the executive for reasons many of the staff consider as self-serving.
The most obvious reason, according to sources, is an alleged collusion between the chairman and HMOs which has considerably weakened the scheme but benefitted the HMOs. Since resuming as ES in 2016, Prof. Yusuf had indicated interest to sanitize the scheme and stop an alleged racket which had ensured that HMOs to NHIS funds for as long as they liked without paying hospitals offering service to enrollees in the scheme.
An internal audit carried out by the ES had also revealed a staggering number of ghost enrollees and hospitals while the HMOs continued to receive huge illegal payments. The Department of State Services (DSS) had also investigated the Scheme from 2013-2015, and one of the recommendations in its report is that HMOs should pay back the sum of N1.05b that they were illegally paid in 2015.
But it was learnt that even though the ES sought and got the council approval to recover NHIS funds and re-accredit the HMOs, the Chairman never supported the move. The Chairman reportedly called a Council meeting one week after the go-ahead was given and asked a representative of the HMOs to address them on why they should not pay back the money.
“The meeting was attended by only four of the 11 council members, and after the presentation the Chairman asked the HMOs not to pay back any money to NHIS,” a senior staff explained. On several occasions, the Chairman had also allegedly circulated council meetings among certain HMOs, an action that was frowned upon by the ES who warned against given undue access and advantage to some HMOs above others at a time they were being accredited.
Continue Reading

NEWS

Lagos pepper seller dies in police custody

Published

on

The family members of a Lagos trader, Mrs Basirat Akinmushire, have demanded an investigation into her death while in the custody of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, Lagos.

They said the 54-year-old, who was arrested at a market on Isolo Housing Estate, Isolo, was hale and hearty until the police called to inform them that she had died.

Our correspondent learnt that a rights group, Network for Police Reforms in Nigeria, had written the Police Service Commission on behalf of the family, alleging that the suspect was extra-judicially murdered.

PUNCH Metro had reported that a man, Olatunde Adetunji, was arrested by the police team in the Ikeja area for alleged robbery and cultism.

Adetunji, an alleged member of the Eiye Confraternity, was said to have claimed that Basirat, aka Area Mama, kept the gang’s weapons.

The 31-year-old allegedly said they usually paid her N5,000 after every successful operation.

The pepper seller, who was subsequently arrested, was said to have told the police that she was coerced into keeping the guns used by the gang.

She allegedly confessed to have transferred two guns belonging to the gang to one Junior, aka Jungle.

Basirat, according to a statement she allegedly made to the police, said the gang threatened to kill her if she leaked their secret.

The police had claimed that the woman, while leading detectives to Junior’s hideout, attempted to escape and fell into a ditch where she got injured.

The deceased’s younger brother, Babajide Lateef, while denying the allegation of arms keeping, said the mother of three was arrested on September 13.

He said, “Since that Thursday that she was arrested, we started going to their office in Ikeja, but we were prevented from seeing her. This was ongoing when we read it in the newspapers that she was attempting to escape when she fell into a ditch.

“On Friday, September 28, the police called us and announced that she was dead. On October 2, we were taken to a morgue to see her corpse. We were told that it was when she was running away that she fell and she was taken to a hospital, where she was admitted to until her death.

“She was not the kind of woman that would keep guns for robbers. She was a gentle woman and did not make trouble with people. I am not saying this because I am a family member; ask from her church members and co-tenants and everybody will testify to her good character.

“Initially, we decided to take her corpse for burial after we were asked to write a letter for the release of her corpse; we had called a lawyer who drafted a letter for us. But when we were told to swear to an affidavit that after the body was released to us we would not make any trouble, we consulted some lawyers who advised against it because the police could use it against us and arrest family members.

“At this point, what we want is the help of the government to unravel the cause of her death and the reason for the affidavit.”

Lateef lamented the effect of the death on the deceased’s husband, a retired head teacher.

He said the widower, Samuel Akinmushire, was admitted to a hospital for three days and had suffered depression.

The National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Okechukwu Nwanguma, in a letter to the Chairman of the PSC, asked that an autopsy be conducted on the corpse.

“The police claimed to have carried out an autopsy, but the family did not know when and where this happened. The family demands a thorough and impartial investigation to unravel the actual cause of death. As part of this investigation, the family demands a transparent autopsy where the family medical and legal representatives will be present.

“NOPRIN calls on the PSC to ensure a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the cause of death and that necessary actions should be taken against any officer involved if a case of extrajudicial killing is established,” he said.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, said there was no foul play in the death.

He said, “The police were investigating a very serious case of armed robbery and gunrunning. Along the line, the woman became a suspect in the case. She was arrested on the suspicion that she was the gang’s armourer and she admitted to the crime.

“She mentioned the name of another suspect whom she claimed had some of the guns. She was taking police operatives to the place when she suddenly jumped out of the vehicle and started running. They chased her and she fell and broke her leg.

“She was taken to the Police College Cottage Hospital, Ikeja, from where she was referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, for better treatment. LASUTH further referred her to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi. Days later, the woman died at the hospital.”

Oti explained that the affidavit demanded by the police was only a requirement by law to ensure the deceased’s family did not return to deny receiving the corpse.

SOURCE: PUNCH

Continue Reading

NEWS

EFCC investigates abandon projects in Nigeria

Published

on

The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) says it has set up a team to commence investigation of abandoned government projects across the country.

Acting EFCC Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Magu, said this would help the anti-graft agency to know the level of completion of the projects, as well as the funds being spent on them.

“The move is to ensure that the contractors complete the projects for the benefit of the people and the development of the country,’’ he said.

Magu said the agency was ready to fight corruption, but with the support of all stakeholders in the country.

The EFCC boss therefore called on Nigerians to identify such projects in their respective areas and report to the commission, for necessary action.

“This is where you can help us, if there is any abundant project we will go after them, because most people collect money and they don’t execute the contract,” he said.

According to him, some contracts were awarded without the intention to execute them. (NAN)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending