The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, on Thursday called on tax defaulters to take advantage of the Federal Government’s Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme before the expiration of the March 31, 2018 deadline of the initiative.
Fowler said tax defaulters who fail to take advantage of the scheme would have themselves to blame as the Federal Government would not extend the deadline.
He spoke in Abuja at a training workshop for professionals advising clients on participation in the VAIDS.
The scheme offers a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for tax defaulters to voluntarily pay back to government what they owe.
In exchange for full and honest declaration, the government promised to waive penalties that should have been levied and also waive the interest that should have been paid on overdue taxes.
Also, those who declare their outstanding tax obligations honestly will not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the nine-month grace period.
Responding to a request made by the President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Mr. Cyril Ede, that the deadline be extended to September 2018, the FIRS boss said those who did not believe in the scheme would not declare their assets voluntarily even if the nine months’ grace period was to be extended by 10 years.
Fowler stated, “This programme will not be extended. It is a Federal Government’s initiative; it was adopted by the Senate, the House of Representatives; and I think people who have an intention to do the right thing, even if you give them six months, will perform within six months.
“But for individuals or corporate organisations who have no intention of doing the right thing, even if you give them 10 years, they will not perform within that period. Let us stick to this date and I am aware that many people would like to wait to the last moment for the rush.”
The FIRS boss added that the Federal Government might offer defaulters with huge tax liabilities the opportunity to spread payment under the VAIDS.
According to him, this is one of the strategies of the government to ease the burden of those who may have taken advantage of the new tax scheme but have huge tax liabilities that may be difficult to offset at once.
Fowler said, “We should advise them (tax defaulters) that even if they declare, it doesn’t mean they have to make the payment on the day that they declare. They are still given time and so, let them prepare themselves because there are possibilities of extending the payment time, subject to the approval of the taxing authorities, whether federal or states.
“There are also different ways of cushioning the effect of payment and we have to realise and remember that you have to pay tax on profit on income and I am sure we will have good success.”
He called for support from tax professionals to make the scheme successful, adding that through the initiative, the government intended to raise the level of revenue generation from taxes.
Fowler said, “We have brought you here because we know that for this programme to work, the Nigerian people need good advisers and this is one programme they will require your services, your expertise and also your buy-in.
“This is a programme that Nigeria needs very badly. For countries that have gone through this experience, they were in similar economic conditions and I am very happy to say that all those countries have had some level of success.”