An appeal has gone to the Nigerian elite, especially high-net worth individuals, to be more patriotic and desist from shirking in tax payment, under whatever guise.
Making this appeal the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) said it is not proper for these “eminent” Nigerians to wait for the tax authorities to coerce them to perform their civic responsibilities.
In a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, BMO said that the elite need to pay their taxes willingly and voluntarily rather than having to be coerced.
“We have a situation where people who are some of the greatest beneficiaries of government, regardless of party affiliation, are reluctant to pay taxes and levies on assets they have locally and in other jurisdictions.
“This has led the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to twice approve amnesty and immunity for defaulters who are willing to voluntarily declare those assets within a time frame, after which they would be liable to criminal prosecution and other punitive measures.
“The first was at the onset of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) of which a sizeable number of wealthy Nigerians took full advantage of the amnesty window and for which the authorities realised N30billion.
“It also led to a five million increase in the number of tax payers in the country’s tax database which stood at twelve million before the introduction of VAIDS.
“And now, the government has made a similar offer to Nigerians with undeclared offshore assets under its Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS). It is almost certain that high net-worth individuals would take advantage of the immunity package to shield themselves from tax penalties on such assets,” it said.
In all these, BMO noted that the Buhari administration deserves commendation for coming up with creative initiatives to raise Nigeria’s woeful tax-to-GDP ratio to a level that is comparable to that of other countries.
This, the group said, is because it is the first administration in recent years to consider appropriate measures to improve on the country’s tax receipts.
“It is no longer news that Nigeria’s abysmal tax-to-GDP ratio, which stands at 6%, is one of the worst not only in Africa but also in the rest of the world in spite of the lifestyle choices that Nigerians are known for. Even Ghana that many are quick to compare to the country has a 16% tax-to-GDP ratio.
“And like President Buhari once said, it is not a thing of pride that a country with people who are so competitive and driven, would be one of the lowest performers in tax receipts especially among the elite.
“Is it not laughable that official records show that only about 214 Nigerians pay more than N20m in tax every year with all of them based in Lagos? How about a situation where fewer than 1,000 people pay N10m or more in tax annually? Yet this is a country with a demand for high end products and was in fact ranked as the biggest market for one of the world’s most expensive champagne!”BMO said.
The group also cautioned opposition elements against concocting and pushing false and inaccurate narrative on the Buhari administration’s move to ensure that high net-worth individuals regularise their offshore assets and pay the necessary taxes.
“We at BMO are surprised that leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said they are seeking more time to study the government’s amnesty package for Nigerians with offshore assets. This is a bit shocking considering that the party’s spokesman is used to attacking policies of the Buhari administration without fully comprehending them.
“We however know that a party that is pushing for a return to the status quo ante would find a way to attack the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme without a thought for the benefits that would accrue to the Nigerian state”.
BMO further urged wealthy Nigerians with assets abroad to key into the initiative and not view it as a punitive action targeted at the elite.