Asset Tracers Woo Nigeria, Others In Tax Drive

 Asset Tracers Woo Nigeria, Others In Tax Drive

• FIRS gets N118b info-induced VAT collections
Global asset tracers, under the aegis of Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for tax Purposes, said it has opened a fresh vista of opportunity for Nigeria and the rest of Africa to increase tax revenue, as well as trace illicit fund flows from the continent.

Reiterating the determination to help Nigeria get information on assets that belong to its residents, which are hidden from tax and governmental authorities, the group said Nigeria has till 2019 to make its commitment to the initiative and begin to reap from the scheme.

The Deputy Head of Global Forum Secretariat, Donal Godfrey, said the aim of workshop in the country is to build awareness on the new initiative that is sweeping across the globe, with 100 countries already committed to it, among which is two African countries- Ghana and South Africa.“We are keen to see all African countries sign on to this initiative. We are talking about illicit financial flows estimated at $50 billion yearly from the continent. We think the solution is exchange of information among countries.

“By this, African countries would receive huge information from all the possible centres that these flows have as destinations and it is automatic. In fact, they are the great beneficiary and net inflow of information. By the commitment, we mean that the countries would sign on to give and receive information,” he said.

Speaking on the eligibility criteria, he said that Nigeria has the four basic elements or the capacity to acquire them, but would mostly require assessment by the body to ascertain its readiness.

The legislations require banks to disclose information on residents with foreign accounts; international agreement that allows exchange of information with trading partners; strong information technology system and support within the tax administrations to ensure that information received will be used properly; and the confidentiality assurance.

According to him, Nigeria has the legislation, but would need to bring international regulations and agreements that are required, while it assessed the country as having or can easily acquire the software needed, which would be assessed in advance of receiving information for the sake of confidentiality.

Meanwhile the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Services, Babatunde Fowler, has said that irrespective of the vast resources, which values are now faltering, there is need to maximise tax resources for development financing.

But efforts to maximise the tax resources has necessitated the need for exchange of information, just as African leaders and elites are now more involved in investing illicit funds in other countries, with no one interested in asking about the propriety of the funds.

“One of the most expensive Pent-House apartment in New York has now been foreclosed. It was bought by a Nigerian called Aluko, who is also involved in certain oil scam in the country, for $500 million.

“But the United States of America that allowed that individual to buy that apartment without asking a question, also has a scheme going on now that for all Americans that have got bank accounts and investments abroad.

“They have given banks and host countries timeline to provide the information to them, even without any international or legal agreement. So if the developing countries are watching their bottom line, I do not see any issue,” he said.

The implications of the illicit flows, he said, has been the loss of tax revenues accruable to the funds’ issuing countries, as well as rising security challenges that was witnessed recently in the country.

Already, he affirmed that a similar exchange of information, which is currently active across the 36 tax boards of the federation and the Customs, has helped in pooling over N118 billion in Value Added Tax within three months.

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