More than half of Federal Government’s budget is lost to tax evaders annually, the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, has surprisingly announced in Abuja.
The whopping loss of about $15 billion (about N5.4 trillion at an exchange rate of N360 to the dollar) may however become a thing of the past as experts gathered in Abuja to chart ways to combat offshore tax evasion through exchange of information regime.
Fowler disclosed that the country would implement the first Automatic Exchange of Information standard by 2020 as part of a commitment to improve transparency in tax administration, increased tax revenue collection, enhanced effectiveness and efficiency service delivery.
He stressed the needful linkage between tax compliance, domestic tax investigation, tax audit, information gathering framework and the international infrastructure for exchange of information amongst authorities and nations.
“Nigeria had demonstrated her commitment to improve transparency around tax matters, when she signed a declaration and joined the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (AEOI) on 17th August 2017.
“Furthermore, to facilitate the process of implementing the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), Nigeria published the AEOI regulations in the Official Gazette of the Federation.
“Finalsed and issued CRS guidelines, constructed and finished a dedicated building for the operation of the AEOI and put in place the necessary Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to operationalize the AEOI processes.
“Nigeria has done all these to enable us conduct the first exchange of information under the automatic exchange of information regime by September 2020.
“I encourage those countries in the ECOWAS sub-region who have not committed to implement the AEOI standards to take necessary steps to do so, especially as the automatic exchange of information portend huge benefits for domestic resource mobilization,’’ Fowler explained.
He noted that increase in mobility of income and assets had created a challenge for tax administration and that government across the world were joining efforts to address such challenges.
Fowler said the challenges offered a global response to the issues of international tax avoidance, tax evasion, illicit financial flows, money laundering and other harmful tax practices based cooperation and use of advanced technologies to tackle the issues.
He added “It is my hope that this seminar will broaden your knowledge and develop your skills on how to use AEOI tools to combat tax evasion and improve domestic revenue mobilization in your countries.
Also, it is expected that the training will further enhance the effectiveness of participants who are at advance stage of AEOI implementation in their countries to increase the number and quality of outgoing requests to their treaty partners while those of you whose countries have not committed to the implementation of the international standard on AEOI will take steps to do so in view of the enormous benefit to be derived from it.’’
Earlier, Mr. Babatunde Oladapo, the Executive Secretary, West Africa Tax Administration Forum (WATAF), said that the body was committed to contributing to the expansion of the global tax base through exchange of information.
Oladapo said efforts were on the closed gap among nations to ensure effective implementation of exchange of information and that tax administration could only be done successful based on the availability of information.
He commended the OECD Global Forum for leading the drive for the automatic exchange of information that would ensure high network of individuals and multinationals were made to pay their taxes.
Also, the representative of the OECD Global Forum, Ervice Tchonaya, said that forum core mandate was to ensure effective implementation of the international standard for the implementation of the automatic exchange of information among countries.
He said that forum instrument of intervention included Per-Review Process, In-Depth Monitory System and Technical Assistance in the area of capacity building in form of trainings and seminars among others.
The seminar organised by WATAF in partnership with the OECD Global Forum had the theme: “Exchange of Information as a Tool to Combat Offshore Tax Evasion’’ aimed at sharing experiences and build capacity across borders.
Meanwhile, the FIRS announced the establishment of a tax office for the administration of taxes for Non-Resident Persons.
The Non-Resident Persons Tax Office (NRPTO), covers foreign companies as defined in the Companies Income Tax Act (Cap C2, LFN 2004 as amended) and individual (who is resident outside Nigeria and derives income or profit from Nigeria) as defined in the Personal Income Tax Act (Cap P8, LFN 2004as amended).
“The devotion of attention to this segment of taxpayers, Fowler said, in a statement by Mr. Wahab Gbadamosi, the Head, Communications and Servicom Department of FIRS, “is to enhance tax certainty, promote voluntary compliance, reduce tax disputes and avoid incidence of double taxation.
“In view of the foregoing, the FIRS hereby notify all non-resident persons operating in Nigeria and the general public that: Non-Resident Persons’ Tax Office (NRPTO) which will handle all tax affairs of non-resident persons (individuals or corporate) has been established; The NRPTO is located within the International Tax Department at 3rd Floor, FIRS Building, 17B Awolowo Road, Ikoyi – Lagos.
“As from 1st January 2020, all non-resident persons liable to tax in Nigeria shall submit every return, correspondence or enquiry relating to all the taxes administered by the Service to the Non-Resident Persons’ Tax Office; and Tax files of non-resident persons shall thenceforth be domiciled at the NRPTO”, the notice said.