Uche Usim, Abuja
Tax evaders are in for tough times as the Federal Government, yesterday, beamed its searchlight on their properties located in highbrow areas of the country. The government’s onslaught comes as the nine-month amnesty granted taxpayers to regularise their tax statuses under the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) gradually winds down.
A source in the Presidency told journalists in Abuja yesterday that the Federal Government, through its data mining agency, “Project Lighthouse”, had received documents on property owners across the country from state governments.
According to him, the first set of property owners that will come under scrutiny for tax non-compliance are owners of properties in Maitama, Asokoro, Garki II, and Wuse II in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and those in Banana Island and its environs, Magodo, Lekki, Ikoyi in Lagos State.
The source revealed that tax records and bank account details of these property owners were being reviewed by a team from Project Lighthouse.
He said, “the extension of the searchlight on these property owners was not unconnected with alleged Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) reported against some highly placed individuals. Most of these people are alleged to be diverting their incomes to property acquisition without paying appropriate taxes.
“Some state governments, in collaboration with the Federal Government, have provided electronic searchable database for both individual and corporate property owners with the following key information – name of owner, plot number, location and Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) number.
“The Federal Government is also extending the searchlight to other northern states, the South East and the South-South regions. It has been observed that most of the taxpayers’ lifestyle does not reflect in their tax payment hence this exercise,” the source explained.
Recall that just last week, the Federal Government vowed to name, shame and prosecute tax evaders from April 1, 2018.
Under the VAIDS, state governments will be the major beneficiaries of the programme because after the recovery, the money will go to the states, which is why they are cooperating with the Federal Government on the scheme.
The Federal Government has also begun collecting data on Nigerians with choice properties overseas, including the United Kingdom, Dubai and other Middle East countries to determine their taxes compliance level.