Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has signed an executive order to boost tax revenue through the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS, which kicked off on Thursday at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
VAIDS is a time-limited opportunity for taxpayers to regularize their tax status relating to previous tax periods and in exchange for full and honest declaration of previously undisclosed assets and income.
The scheme will run from July 1 this year to March 31, 2018.
Speaking at the event, Professor Osinbajo said that out of an estimated number of 69.9m Nigerians engaged in economic activities; only about 14 million people pay tax in the country.
He said Nigeria’s tax system, which is based on global best practice, is progressive with the highest income levels bearing the greatest tax burden.
Prof. Osinbajo said tax payers that comply with the scheme before its expiration date would derive some benefits from it.
“In exchange for full and honesty declaration, tax payers will receive immunity from prosecution, forgiveness of penalty and interest due on unpaid taxes, and the full assurance that information provided will be confidential,” he said.
He added that participants in the scheme will not be selected for audit investigation for the period covered.
He said “This is an offer in the spirit of national reconciliation and rebuilding which must be taken as such.
In addition, because we understand that some tax payers may have challenges raising cash, we have built in a system that will allow those owing to pay over a period of time, subject to conditions.”
The Acting President also said that those who fail to take advantage of the VAIDS period would be made to face the law.
In his words, “Upon the expiry of the scheme, we consider those who have failed to take advantage of this offer or who have declared falsely to be willful tax defaulters and economic saboteurs.
We will then proceed with aggressive investigation with a view to criminal prosecution.
We will also publish a tax defaulters list to name and shame those refusing to do the right thing.”
The Acting President also said mass awareness would be created to support the VAIDS programme.
“We will be conducting extensive sensitization, workshops for professionals in law, accounting and taxation to enable them provide advice to the truly patriotic Nigerians who want to take advantage of this olive branch, which is an offer of amnesty,” Professor Osinbajo stated, urging those who may be in default to consult with their professional advisers.
Among others who spoke at the event, were Senator John Owan, who represented the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, North West Nigeria and the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.