From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Federal Government has dashed the hopes of many individuals and organisations hoping for possible extension of the enforcement of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), saying the March 2018 deadline remains sacrosanct.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, stated this yesterday in Abuja at a VAIDS training programme, while responding to the request made by the President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Mr. Cyril Ede, who urged the government to consider extending the deadline from March to September 2018, to give more room for better compliance.
According to Fowler, professionals should help sensitise their clients to participate in VAIDS instead of asking for an extension as such option was not under consideration.
He said the scheme remains a product of careful thinking that involved the inputs of various stakeholders including the National Assembly.
He therefore urged all individuals and organisations to declare their assets and pay appropriate taxes before the March 31, 2018 deadline, when there will be no interests, penalties, tax audits and prosecution.
Fowler said, “there will be no extension. No one should think along that line. Even if you give some people 10 years to regularise their taxes, they will not still comply. And someone who wants to perform his duties by paying appropriate taxes can do so in six months. It is the will that matters.
“However, you don’t have to pay your tax on the day you declared your assets. Tax authorities can work out a deferment arrangement where you can pay the tax on a later date as agreed. That is subject to their approval,” he explained.
VAIDS, he noted, was launched on June 29 and allows Nigerians to honestly declare their assets and pay appropriate taxes between July 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, when there will be no penalties of any sort.
“However, we know we need the support of stakeholders and that is why this training was organised. You have been invited to share your ideas with us as regards this scheme…”
We need you to point out areas we can improve on. We need your buy-in. The issue of prosecution is not the best of successful options. How many companies will you close? How many people will you prosecute? We need your support to make this work well by speaking to your clients.
“Nigeria as a country needs this programme seriously as our tax compliance level is low and should remarkably improve, especially now that our revenue from oil has reduced. So we need to open up non-oil revenue sources to operate. So VAIDS has come to stay. Many big countries have gone through this. It won’t be extended,” Fowler explained.
In his remarks at the event, CITN President, Cyril Ede, described the scheme as something laudable that will ginger Nigerians to come forward without fear to regularise their taxes within the grace period. While asking for extension of the grace period, Ede said the time was ripe for Nigeria to take decisive steps to increase its tax base.
“We have informed our members to embrace the programme. We have released a publication on excerpts on how members can advise their clients on tax matters. There’s need for govt to increase the grace period. But we ask that the March 2018 deadline should be shifted to September 2018. South Africa gave a grace period of 11 months, even as a country with a better tax compliance level. It is necessary for tax authorities to clean the Augean stable to allow tax defaulters put their house in order.”
In his goodwill message, the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Ismail Zakari, who was represented by Arinze Gabriel, said VAIDS remains a good move, especially now that Nigeria needs multiple streams of revenue from non-oil sources.
He said taxation in Nigeria has undergone reforms to enhance asset disclosures and tax payments, adding that, “VAIDS is one of such reforms and it is a welcome development. ICAN has informed all its members to embrace the scheme,” he said.