The Federal Government on Friday said it had commenced the Automatic Exchange of Tax Information, particularly on overseas assets held by Nigerians, adding that with the development, there was no more hiding place for tax defaulters.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said this in Abuja during the presentation of the Progress Report on Tax Laws Reform by the Vice Chairman of the National Tax Policy Implementation Committee, Mr. Taiwo Oyedele.
She stated that the AETI was being implemented with foreign countries, including the United Kingdom.
The minister expressed satisfaction with the data being supplied to Nigeria by foreign countries under the AETI, to which the country became a party in January 2018.
She said the data on bank accounts, property and trusts, which had come automatically from a number of countries, were being used to support the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme.
This, she added, would allow the tax authorities to check the accuracy of declarations made by taxpayers.
Adeosun said the data, which Nigeria had received with regard to overseas assets held by Nigerians, had been impressive and would underpin a long-term improvement in the nation’s tax to Gross Domestic Product ratio.
She disclosed that Nigeria had written to a number of nations to request specific information about offshore trusts and bank accounts held by its citizens.
The minister advised users of offshore structures to take advantage of the VAIDS to regularise their tax status before the end of the amnesty programme in March this year.
She said, “The offshore tax shelter system is basically over. Those who have hidden money overseas are being exposed and whilst Nigerians can legally keep their money anywhere in the world, they must first pay any taxes due to the Nigerian government so that we can fund the needs of the masses and create jobs and wealth for our people.
“The moral argument against illicit financial flows and tax evasion and the strong international cooperation are such that every Nigerian taxpayer should do the right thing. The needs of our people for development override any other argument against payment of tax.”
Adeosun stressed the need for a sustainable revenue that could deliver infrastructural development for Nigeria and improve the tax to GDP ratio of the country.
She gave an assurance that the Federal Government would build a robust tax system and implement the recommendations by the National Tax Policy Implementation Committee on tax laws reform.
Earlier, the NTPIC vice chairman, who represented the Chairman, said the committee considered three major policy documents namely, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan; National Tax Policy and Ease of Doing Business Plan, in carrying out its assignment.
He noted that the committee agreed that tax reforms should align with the overall objectives of the government as articulated in these documents, such that every action or recommendation would promote and catalyse the realisation of the overall objectives.
The committee, according to him, identified the seven major tax areas that will have the highest impact.
These are Company Income Tax, Value Added Tax, Customs and Excise Tariff, Personal Income Tax, pension contributions, industrial development income tax relief, and Tertiary Education Trust Fund.
He stated that the proposed changes to the tax laws would increase and diversify government revenue, simplify tax payments and business, promote Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, protect most vulnerable persons in the society, and remove obsolete, ambiguous and contradictory provisions in the law.
Oyedele added that the committee’s work resulted in two Executive Orders and five amendment bills.
The Executive Orders are Value Added Tax Act (Modification) Order and Review of Goods Liable to Excise Duties and Applicable Rate Order.
He gave the five proposed amendment bills as the Companies Income Tax Act (Amendment) Bill; Value Added Tax Act (Amendment) Bill; Customs, Excise, Tariff (Consolidation) Act (Amendment) Bill; Personal Income Tax Act (Amendment) Bill; and Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act (Amendment) Bill