25 June 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal government said it hopes to raise at least $1 billion from a scheme that will give tax evaders a chance to make payments retrospectively.
The Nigerian economy is in the second year of a recession brought on by low oil prices. Crude sales make up two-thirds of national revenue and the government is seeking to boost its income from non-oil sources.
The Ministry of Finance said in a statement that the scheme would be launched on June 29 to give tax evaders immunity from prosecution, penalty charges and interest if they “regularise their tax status” between July 1 and December 31, 2017.
It said tax evaders who delayed participation until after December 31 would be liable for interest on overdue tax balances.
The statement added that international asset tracers and investigative specialists have been appointed to assist the government in tracking assets held by Nigerians within the country and abroad.
“Anticipated funds to be raised are at least US$1 billion, which will reduce Nigeria’s borrowing needs, allow investment in vital infrastructure and spur development,” the statement added.
The country’s record 7.44 trillion-naira ($22.95 billion) 2017 budget, signed into law last week, seeks to increase capital expenditure to stimulate growth.
Economists have long criticised the low levels of tax in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country, and in March the government laid out plans to increase its overall tax to GDP ratio to 15 percent by 2020 from 6 percent now.
The ministry said in May that it would increase the interest rate on unpaid taxes to discourage companies and individuals from paying late and racking up a larger debt.
The government has previously announced plans to increase a luxury goods tax to 15 percent from 5 percent.
Meanwhile, in a bid to boost tax awareness and collection, the Federal government has commenced the training of 27 unemployed graduates as Community Tax Liason Officers.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, made this known on Friday in Abuja while briefing newsmen on the outcome of her meeting with the graduates presently undergoing training at Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo FCT.
She said that 27 people had been selected from the N-Power programme to be the pilot set of the community tax awareness project.
“This is a five-day course, and this is the first set of Community Tax Liason Officers. These first set of graduates had already registered on the N-Power website.
“We went through the applications and selected specific disciplines such as accounting, business studies, economics, mathematics and relevant disciplines. The website is still open for more people to register.
“We want to run this pilot edition early, so we can see how much they have learnt, how good our training materials are so that when we get the 7,500 graduates, we will be ready,” she said.
It will be recalled that last week, the Federal government had announced that it would recruit 7,500 graduates through the N-Power programme as Community Tax Liason Officers to raise awareness on tax among citizens.
The graduates would be recruited on a two-year fixed contract at N30,000 per month and a promise of added incentives such as sponsored professional training on tax if the programme becomes a success.
The recruits are expected to go to schools, churches, mosques, markets and other social places to educate people on the tax system and let them know what their obligation is.
Through the programme, the government expects to increase the number of taxpayers by 35 per cent that is from 14 million to about 17 million in two years.