Technology to expose Lagos tax evaders
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
The Chairman, Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), Hamzat Zubair, has warned that with the aid of technology, there will no be hiding place for wealthy Nigerians who have been underpaying and evading taxes.
He said they will be caught if they fail to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), adding that the availability of information, locally and internationally through technology, makes it impossible for tax evaders to escape detection.
He said: “There is what we call Project Lighthouse and it has to do with data mining. We are looking at several sources of information and trying to develop and bring out certain data on all taxpayers. For instance, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has information on all payments above N10 million. This means all the people that have had transactions in multitudes of N10 million are known.”
He added that state land registries are also having data mined from them as a way of establishing the owners of certain properties. For Nigerians with assets and money abroad, he said the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEoI), to which Nigeria is signatory, will make information on wealth available even without a formal request. “Countries like UK, UAE, USA, France and Germany are all signatories to this. They are going to compile registers of Nigerians, who own properties and have big bank accounts in their jurisdictions. These will be handed over to the Federal Government for access to information on spending patterns and lifestlyes.
“It is confidential information and part of agreement is that it is kept confidential and restricted to certain level of persons. But primarily, we are going to have access to information.
“Now, the access to information will enable us to ask questions. What was the source of income through which you acquired these assets? Were those sources taxed? If those sources were taxed, they will not be subjected to further taxes. If you are able to establish that you made all the money in Nigeria and transferred it abroad to buy assets, then, we are going to subject those amounts to taxation in Nigeria.
“Also, if you have huge balances in your accounts abroad, we are going to ask questions. What was the source?
“If the source was Nigeria or elsewhere, we are going to ask if it was taxed. Even if you earn income in abroad, as long as you are resident in Nigeria, you file your taxes here. And it also subject to Nigerian tax laws. That way, we are going to be able build up data on taxpayers with which we can profile them for the unpaid taxes,” Zubair said.
VAIDS, a nine-month tax amnesty programme of the Federal Government, in conjunction with state tax authorities, ends on 31 March.