The Nigerian Government has recruited and trained 2,190 Community Tax Liaison Officers (CTLOs) under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), says the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.
Adeosun, in a statement by her Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Mr Oluyinka Akintunde, said that 1,710 CTLOs had already been deployed to 33 states, out of the number recruited and trained.
She said that their task was to raise awareness about the scheme and taxation in general.
She said that the CTLOs were currently operating in Adamawa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Kwara, Lagos, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun and Oyo states among others.
Adeosun said there was no hiding place for tax evaders residing in Nigeria or abroad, noting that the Federal Government had put in place a data mining mechanism to fish out evaders.
“The unique cooperation between the various arms of Federal Government, state governments and foreign governments has provided an unprecedented level of data that allows the Nigerian Government to profile taxpayers accurately.
“We are now able to 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 5 years and found that even those who made money from government, under-declared,” she said.
Adeosun said that the tax compliance team had looked at import records and compared the value of goods imported to the tax declarations of the importers, but the discovery was worrisome as “the variance was disturbingly wide”.
“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.
“They also registered high specification vehicles and funded luxurious personal events costing multiples of the declared income,” she said.
Adeosun said that now, with the centralisation of data under Project Lighthouse within the Federal Ministry of Finance, a major tax loophole has been plugged.
She reiterated the willingness of the Federal Government to prosecute tax evaders after the tax amnesty period had elapsed.
Adeosun also said that the Federal Government had compiled a list of 500 prominent Nigerians with property and trusts abroad, to determine their tax compliance status.
The 500 prominent Nigerians, according to her, will receive their letters beginning from Monday, asking them to take advantage of the tax amnesty to regularise their tax status and avoid prosecution and fines.
VAIDS, an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the State Tax Authorities, is a revolutionary programme that provides tax defaulters a nine-month opportunity to voluntarily and truthfully declare previously untaxed assets and incomes.
The tax amnesty period is expected to lapse on March 31, 2018.
Job creation is one of the spin-offs of the VAIDS initiative, with the scheme expected to create 7,500 opportunities for Nigerians as CTLOs through the N-Power scheme of the Federal Government.