President Muhammadu Buhari has stepped up the regulations on money laundering and tax evasion by signing Executive Order 008 entitled: ‘Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme’.
According to a statement on Wednesday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the new Executive Order took effect from Monday when Buhari signed it.
Shehu explained that with the signing of the order, Nigerian taxpayers who held offshore assets and incomes were expected to, within 12 months, voluntarily declare those assets and pay taxes on them.
He said when they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits.
The presidential aide quoted the order as stating, “Any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme pays a one-time levy of 35 per cent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offences and offences related to offshore assets, among others.
“Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme, result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.”
Shehu added that in accordance with the new order, the Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, would set up a VOARS in Switzerland for all categories of taxpayers, who had defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectibles, subject to the fulfilment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.
To avoid the abuse of the process, he said the Federal Government made clear that the “scheme is open to all persons, entities and their intermediaries holding offshore assets and are in default of their tax obligations in any way, including those who are not already under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria or any other country, and have not been charged with any crimes, including theft of public funds or obtaining offshore assets through corrupt practices.”
Shehu stated that in signing the order, Buhari noted that under the Nigerian law, every citizen had the duty to declare their income and assets and pay taxes on them, but regretted that this, in most instances, had not been the case.
“The sad reality is that efforts to recover these taxes from defaulters through litigation are often frustrated by the complications caused by the change in the character and nature of such assets, insufficient financial intelligence and long delays in courts, among several other reasons,” he quoted the President as further saying.