Tax evasion through concealment of offshore assets continues to be one of the major issues being tackled by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
In a bid to encourage transparency, it would be recalled that on 2nd day of April, 2019 while unveiling the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS), the Attorney General of the Federation had announced the decision of the FG to grant an amnesty or immunity for tax defaulters who voluntarily declares their offshore assets. According to the AGF last year, “when funds are voluntarily declared, the Federal Government will deduct 35 per cent recoveries, while two and half per cent would be charged as administrative fees for assessing the funds, while 63 per cent would be registered in the system as taxable,”.
However, the Attorney General of the Federation has again threatened to take stiff measures against the tax defaulters and any institution that aids the concealment of such, in line with the Executive Order 008 (as amended).
The order, which operates through the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme, is targeted at Nigerian citizens resident in Nigeria but own properties in foreign jurisdictions.
Malami said this in a statement signed by his Spokesman, Umar Gwandu, on Thursday. According to the statement:
“For defaulters who may be tempted to continue concealment of their offshore assets, Executive Order 008 as amended stipulates that any domestic or foreign bank, asset manager or intermediary that cooperates with defaulters, enabling them to conceal offshore assets and obligations pertaining to them shall, upon discovery, be liable to pay to the Federal Government a penalty on the total of such offshore assets, in addition to other penalties provided for under Nigerian laws or laws of foreign countries from which Nigeria can benefit.”
The statement added, “Executive Order 008 as amended mandates the AGF to set up and implement a Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme referred to as ‘VOARS. VOARS gives all relevant persons and their intermediaries who have defaulted in declaration of their offshore assets the opportunity to voluntarily declare and regularise their offshore assets.
“The Federal Government hopes that relevant persons amongst Nigerians, Nigerian entities and their intermediaries will seize the opportunity provided by VOARS to declare and regularise their offshore assets before it is too late.
“Relevant persons who voluntarily declare their offshore assets and pay the stipulated levy to the Federal Government will receive compliance certificates which allow them to use their residual assets freely without hindrance.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation, further stated that any bank or intermediary that helped a Nigerian citizen to shield such properties would pay a fine which is the equivalent of the cost of the property.
Conclusively, the AGF said that in order to ensure seamless exchange of information, the scheme would work closely with the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit.