Written by Sarah NEGEDU

FG to set up special tax court to prosecute offenders

The federal government said it would not renege on its promise to prosecute tax offenders who fail to utilise the VAIDS programme, as its plans to set up a special courts to prosecute those who failed to regularise their tax status after the expiration of the nine month amnesty period.

Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, disclosed this recently on a breakfast show on television.

Adeosun said the government was aware of the slow nature of the judicial system and would be setting up special courts to fast-track the adjudication of tax-related offences under the VAIDS initiative.

According to the minister, “After March 31, we have plans to establish a special tax courts and accelerated prosecution, because the thing with tax prosecution is that it is a very simple case with no defence to it. It’s a matter of law; the question to ask is, ‘did you pay or not?’ So it’s a very easy case and it’s not like the EFCC cases that we will have to be tracing this or that.”

She noted that all incomes, assets and other properties earned and acquired from 2010 to date would be covered under VAIDS, and such properties must be accounted for by individuals and companies under the scheme.

Over 130,000 high profile individuals have so far been identified for scrutiny through the data mining programme being implemented under the ‘Project Lighthouse’ initiative. Adeosun said government, through the use of information technology, had gathered adequate data that would be used to prosecute the offenders.

“The focus on tax collection remains after VAIDS. Yesterday, we were analysing data and now we have flagged over 130,000 already, and from March 31, we will start and say these people did not participate in VAIDS and this is the data we have on them, now pursue them.

“There can be no sacred cows and nobody should be too big or too small to be told to do the right thing. People must as they earn money pay a portion of it; and so, the focus on tax will continue.”

The finance minister also accused multinational companies of colluding with tax officials to manipulate the tax system in Nigeria.

She said, “On the issue of multinationals, what we’ve found out is that they are not paying the right taxes and they are sometimes the ones colluding with tax officers here to minimise their taxes and we feel that is a corrupt practice.

“In the United States, if you offer a bribe, it’s an offence and we feel that going to another country and deliberately manipulating the tax system so as not to pay from that country where you are earning so much will also be labelled in that category.”

The Minister ruled out any plan for extension of the 31 March deadline, saying sufficient period had been given to tax payers to voluntary and truthfully declare their assets and income which had not been declared previously.

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