In the wake of the launch of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) of the federal government, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has said it will soon commence investigations history of the Nigerian owners of the 29 private jets registered in South Africa.
The Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Tunde Fowler, speaking in Lagos at the weekend said with a recent discovery of 29 private jets being hanged in South Africa by Nigerians and Nigerian businesses, the FIRS would look into ensuring they are not evading tax and also investigate the source of their incomes.
Fowler who spoke at the FIRS and Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information on Tax Purposes workshop on Automatic Exchange of Information in Lagos on Friday stressed the need for information sharing within African countries as well as other international counterparts so as to curb illicit funds being laundered to other countries.
“A lot of people talk about African leaders taking money out of their respective countries and investing it not only in Europe but in other African countries and those host countries don’t ask for information in terms of the sources and the tax payments of these individual or organisation which poses danger to the stability of the economy.
“I was in South Africa and I did find out that Nigerians and Nigerian organisations have 29 private jets registered in South Africa. Now the issue is do they pay tax in Nigeria or do they pay there. We haven’t talked about how they got the money to buy the jet but first of all, how much tax have they paid to the government of Nigeria.
“For Africa, it is important we help each other. And the only way we can help each other is through this automated exchange. Each African country present here today needs to maximize its revenue through taxation. And the only way to maximize is when we exchange information.”
The FIRS boss also cited as examples of illicit funds laundered out of the country the recently caught notorious kidnapper who took illicit funds to invest in prime properties in South Africa and Ghana and also Mr. Kola Aluko who bought a $500 million penthouse in the United States saying if tax records where cross checked in these countries “they would know they weren’t in the position to buy such properties and investments.”
The Automatic Exchange of Information enables participating countries to access a pool of data and know the assets of their citizens held outside the country for the purposes of taxation.
Fowler noted that there are two aspects to the Automatic Exchange of Information; “one is the issue of security and the other is the issue of lost revenue. I think the more we work together through this automatic exchange of data, the better it is for all of us.
“The issue is that some countries may say ask no questions but USA that allowed that individual to buy a $500 million apartment without asking questions also has a scheme now for all Americans that have investments or bank accounts outside America. They have given the countries where they have those accounts a certain time limit to provide that information to them even without any international legal agreement. So if developed countries can be looking at their bottom line in terms of tax revenue we also should.”
On the part of the advocates for Automated Exchange of information, Deputy Head of the Global Forum, Mr. Donal Godfrey, explained that “101 countries have committed to exchange financial accounting automatically, 50 beginning in a few weeks time and another 51 in 2018. These countries include all of the financial centres in the world that hold assets from other countries from around the world.
“We think it is really important African countries join because at the moment we have only two African countries committed which are South Africa and Ghana. There have been talks about 50 billion leaving Africa yearly and at global forum, we believe the exchange of financial accounts and information would help.”
He noted further that it would be possible for Nigeria to make a commitment to 2019 as it already has the legal framework and technological capacity and only needs the political will to commit to the information exchange.