The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) will be probing the bank accounts of 6,772 billionaire tax defaulters, using commercial banks’ data, Chairman Tunde Fowler has said.
Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos, the FIRS boss said most of such tax defaulters have between N1 billion and N5 billion in their accounts, but have no Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and have not filed any tax returns.
Fowler said: “What we have done is what we call ‘substitution’ which is also in our laws, and empowers us to appoint the banks as collection agents for tax.”
He said the accounts will be frozen or put under substitution pending when the owners come forward. “First, they refused to come forward in 2016; they refused to come forward under Value Added Tax (VAT) and are still operating here. So, we are putting them under notice that it is their civic responsibility to pay tax and to file returns on these accounts,” Fowler said.
Fowler explained further: “We looked inot all businesses, partnerships, corporate accounts that have a minimum turnover of N1 billion per annum for the past three years.
“So, on a minimum, every company or business included here over the last three years, have had a banking turnover of N3 billion and above. Some of them have had banking turnover of over N5 billion and have not paid one kobo in taxes. Now the total number of TIN and no pay is 6,772”.
”I plead with the banks to support us. In supporting us, you are supporting Nigeria. In supporting Nigeria, you are supporting all Nigerians and those who have chosen Nigeria as home. And most of all, you are supporting a future that we can leave behind for the upcoming youth of Nigeria,” Fowler said.
FIRS is also paying closer attention to tax audit. “We have started a comprehensive audit that involves both national and regional audits because we got to a position where we found out that majority of the major organisations that were allowed to do self-assessment did not truthfully declare or pay the taxes that were due. To date, we have raised assessment of over N805 billion from 1,324 national audits out of which 499 (taxpayers) have N219 billion,” the FIRS chief said.
”N219 billion; it can do a lot of things. It can provide certainly a lot more infrastructure, healthcare and educational facilities. These monies that are supposed to go into the Federation Account are shared between federal, local and state governments. So, every state can get an additional N1 billion from such money.”
”Gone are the time or days we ask what has government done for me. We should ask what we are doing for ourselves and the nation first. We should obey the law, pay our taxes, empower our governments at various levels, then sit back and see the end results. If we see the amount of the budget that has gone into capital under this present government, but not only gone into the government but being expensed, it is at least three times more when the revenues were even higher.”
He did not spare the FIRS, even though it had made over N1 trillion over its 2017 collection between January to August by N1 trillion. “If you look at 2018 revenue to date, between January and August, we have done N3.5 trillion, which is N1 trillion over 2017. But the main point I want to make is that majority of taxpayers that accounted for this revenue have not changed. The laws have not changed. And to a great extent, the consultants to these companies have not changed. If you look at 2017, there is an increase of close to N800 billion over the 2016 collection.”
“The increase in 2018 so far showed N 1 trillion. If the same consultants advised or reviewed the accounts of the majority of the taxpayers, one would wonder why such large increases occurred. It is either the taxpayers did not disclose fully their financials to the consultants or the consultants involved in tax planning.”
Continuing, he said: “The agency found out that a number of businesses collect VAT but do not remit to government. “ So, we are going back the old school way and I would just like to publicly display this, this is the new VAT certificate which would be given to all tax payers and we expect them to display it in their places of business,” he said.
The FIRS chair noted that taxpayers can now enjoy the flexibility of choosing their tax offices and paying online.
“Prior to now, at times your tax office can be an hour away from your office, taxpayers can now choose where their files reside. You can pay anywhere in the world: London, Dubai, New York, pay your taxes online and download your receipt immediately,” he said.
Citing the example of taxes FIRS is levying on corporates which have property, but are now being assessed on the value of their property’s turnover, Fowler explained why such property owners are being assessed for tax.
He said: ”First of all, banking turnover does not mean that is the turnover of your business it simply means the money that has gone in and out of your account, but what the tax law says is that’’ if you do not file your returns and you are in constant default we use turnover as a basis of estimating your tax liability’.
For example, if your turnover is N100 million we assume that 20 per cent of that is profit and we tax that at 30 per cent.
“The idea here is simple if you have had the opportunity to make your wealth in this economy, in this society, the least you can do is pay your tax. We have not included any group who by law are not meant to pay tax in this group. So far, we have sent out 2,980 letters and we believe that before the end of September, we would get most of them out.”