By Ruth Olurounbi
Head of Nigeria’s tax agency, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) says Nigeria is now strategizing on how to seize bank accounts of of nearly 7,0000 billionaires who have defaulted on paying their taxes months after the expiration or Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) introduced by last year by the Federal Government.
Tunde Fowler, chairman of FIRS last June that it had recovered up to N219 billion through the VAIDS to date,although Kemi Adeosun, country’s minister of finance says it the government has data suggesting that several people have not filed the proper returns even with the VAIDS which was designed for tax defaulters to regularise their tax liabilities during a nine-month window.
Fowler says the government has evidence that shows that several people who have between N1 and N5 billion in their accounts do not have Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), suggesting that they have not filed any tax returns as taxpayers.
According to Fowler, government’s data has indicted 6,772 billionaires who will likely have their accounts frozen or put under substitution pending when they come forward.
“From the 23 banks we have analysed so far, we have 31,395 records, out of which effectively minus duplication we had 18,602. We broke those into three categories: those that have TIN tax I.D, those that don’t have no TIN and of course no TIN no pay and those that have TIN and have not even paid anything.
“So, on a minimum, every company or business included here over the last three years have had a banking turnover of N3 billion and above. Some of them have had banking turnover of over N5 billion and have not paid one kobo in taxes. Now the total number of TIN and no pay is 6,772,” Fowler said in a written statement on Sunday.
“Some of them claim not to own the property, those of them that claim not to own the property and of course were sent to government, Presidency to decide what would happen to those properties that have no owners. To those that have owners and have not paid they would be prosecuted.
“We are also in the process of going to court to get the approval of the court orders to sell those properties. We are not only doing that Abuja. We’ve concluded in Lagos. We are currently doing it in Osun, Oyo, Kaduna and eventually we would cover the whole federation.
“The idea here is simple if you have had the opportunity to make your wealth in this economy, in this society, the least you can do is pay your tax. We have not included any group who by law are not meant to pay tax in this group. So far, we have sent out 2,980 letters and we believe that before the end of September we would get most of them out,” the statement signed by Wahab Gbadamosi, spokesperson to the tax body said.