By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Michael Eboh
…to seize 2,000 properties in Abuja
ABUJA—Over 2,000 properties in Abuja are now in jeopardy, as the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, is taking steps to seize them on account of the failure of their owners to pay taxes.
Speaking at a media training on the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS, in Abuja, yesterday, Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Tunde Fowler, said property owners in Abuja who refused to pay taxes from income earned from such properties must either comply or lose them.
He said: “If an organisation is making money off you and I; they are selling their properties to us, they are making profits or if individuals: are providing services and making money off you and I, don’t you think they should pay tax?
“We, as a revenue board, still have a job to do. The opportunity to come under VAIDS is there. Since VAIDS was launched, we have seen over 2000 properties in Abuja that have ownership of corporate organizations that have not filed any tax, have not paid any tax.
“That is why we gave them notice that we will shortly be going to court, we will be seizing those properties and selling them to make up for the outstanding tax and if there is any change, we will refund.”
The chairman said that about N17 billion had been raised under the scheme, adding that another N16 billion would be realized before the end of this month.
He said: “We are still at the starting point. So far, less than five companies have paid the rate of N17 billion with another six billion that is expected to be paid by the end of December.
“So in terms of numbers, we still have not really got the type of crucial numbers that we are expecting. When we gave the tax amnesty last year, we had 2,700 corporate accounts that filed for it.
‘’Now we are talking of fewer than 10 companies that have come under VAIDS. There is still a lot more to be done, a lot of companies are asking questions, talking to consultants, and so we are expecting a whole lot more to come in as the programme progresses.
“In terms of the estimates that we expect from VAIDS, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said $1 billion, which is equivalent to about N325 billion will come from both naira and foreign investments.
‘’Of the N17 billion already paid, $50 million was paid in foreign exchange. So we are looking at both.”
On how the courts would be able to cope with cases that would arise at the end of the scheme, the FIRS boss said he was confident that the judges would do their duties objectively.
“As per court cases, we will not influence the course of justice but we have given them information on VAIDS, we have given them information on tax because we have produced some tax books.
‘’We believe that our judges will apply the law, not because they are Nigerians but because they are judges and sworn an oath to uphold the laws.
“So we are not trying to put them on our side because we want to increase revenues and every tax payer has opportunity to go to court and we believe that as long as we do our jobs the right way, we will most likely win our cases.
“So in term of sensitizing the judges, we have given them information, and we believe that they will apply the information correctly and in the best interest of the nation.”
We are apolitical
Mr. Fowler added that his organization was apolitical and would, therefore, not bend the rules for politicians, irrespective of party affiliations.
December 31 declaration deadline
He said those who take advantage of the scheme and declare their assets and income on or before December 31, 2017, would enjoy the waiver of both penalty and interests.
However, he warned that any individual or corporate organization who failed to declare between January 2018 and the March 2018 deadline, would enjoy waiver only on penalties and would be made to pay interests, in addition to tax arrears.
Also speaking, Mr. Albert Folorunsho, Consultant to VAIDS and Managing Consultant, Pedabo Professional Services, stated that in addition to the waivers, individuals who keyed into the scheme would be free from prosecution and would be allowed to repay their tax liabilities over a period of up to three years, while payments can be made in installments.