By Emmanuel Acha
The Federal Government on Thursday launched Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) in Enugu with renewed commitment to clamp down on tax defaulters.
VAIDS is a time limited opportunity for taxpayers to regularise their status relating to previous tax periods.
Tax payers are expected to within the period which terminates on March 31, 2018, honestly declare previously undisclosed assets and income and will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties.
The Minister of Finance, Dr Kemi Adeosun while launching the scheme in the state, said tough decisions needed to be made to set the country’s economy on the path of progress.
Adeosun said the country had poor tax record with a six-per cent Gross Domestoc Product (GDP) in tax returns, adding that successful countries had efficient tax systems.
She added that “if we are serious about building this country, we must embrace efficient taxation. We must make sure that we collect and deploy taxes effectively.”
The minister explained that out of the 70 million economically viable Nigerians, only 14 million were paying taxes and may not be paying the correct amount.
She said the current administration had made tremendous progress in fixing the economy through well thought out schemes, noting that there were clear signals that the economy was on the path of growth and recovery after the recession as infrastructure deficits were being fixed.
The minister said “when we came into power in 2015, N19 billion was allocated to road construction but in 2016, we increased it to N220 billion and a total of N1.2 trillion had already been released for capital votes.”
Adeosun, who said government was set to go after tax defaulters at the expiration of the grace period, added that accomplices would also lose assets.
“Henceforth, there would not be any hiding place for tax evaders: I advise every Nigerian to pay tax.
“I want to urge us all to take advantage of VAIDS to support ourselves and government in building this country,” Adeosun said.
Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State commended Federal Government for the initiative, which he noted would enhance government revenue.
Ugwuanyi said the state government had made substantial progress in its tax returns in the past one year, explaining that his administration spent over N40 billion in the construction of 240 kilometres
of roads between 2015 and 2018.
He noted that the government also spent N2.7 billion in fixing federal roads within the same period, adding that grassroots projects worth N200 million were completed in each local government area of the state.
The governor said his administration had constructed 46.9 km feeder roads in agrarian communities
to support farmers and food production in the state, saying more than 4000 public school teachers were employed “to make Enugu State among the first four most developed states in the country by 2020”.
The governor, however, appealed to the minister to use her good office to impress it on federal agencies in the state to pay their debt.
He noted that federal agencies owed the state government over N14 billion in unpaid taxes.