The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun has thrown more light on the tax awareness intiative launched by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, saying that it was recently discovered that very few people are actually paying the right taxes.
Adeosun explained on Channels TV’s, Sunrise Daily that the essence of the new tax scheme is to improve the revenue of the government and get a tighter grip on individuals who may want to evade tax.
Giving details of the process, she said: “We actually engaged a team of experts to troll through data and what we found was in many cases, people’s lifestyle which should really be from their taxed income did not correlate with their taxed income so there was massive tax evasion.
Stating an example, the minister said: “We looked at properties abroad, we looked at properties in high value areas, we looked at BVN, we found that some people’s assets and lifestyle were not compared to their tax returns. For example, you have people with five or six properties but yet have a tax clearance that shows they paid 150 thousand Naira for the year, so that’s the sort of evasion on that sort of scale”.
She also noted that as a result of the massive evasion, the country is being shortchanged significantly and that the government has been investigating the assets of some Nigerians in the last 15 months.
“We have been working on that for 15 months now, technology has been very helpful in enabling us to build accurate financial profiles of Nigerians so from BVN, from forex records, from forum property records, we also engaged one of the world’s leading private investigation firms and they trace assets abroad.
“It all started with the fight against corruption and trying to trace stolen money and they were coming back to us and saying No, your problem is also untaxed money.
“A lot of money has gone out of Nigeria, both properties in high scale areas and they were giving us this data so we then began to look very very closely at the issue of tax compliance and when we saw the level of non-compliance, we just decided that the best thing for us to do rather than pursue everybody is open a window and allow everybody to voluntarily regularise their status.”