By Elizabeth Adegbesan
Lagos—The Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, has said that it will probe tax payments and income source of Nigerian individuals and businesses that own the 29 private jets being hanged in South Africa.
Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Tunde Fowler, disclosed this, weekend, in Lagos at the FIRS and Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information on Tax Purposes workshop.
Speaking on the importance of the workshop, Fowler said information sharing among African countries as well as other international counterparts would help curb illicit funds being laundered to other countries.
He said: “Embracing the initiative, Automatic Exchange of Information is not just to raise tax revenue base arrears but to enhance tax security and safety of taxes on assets offshore. Some Africans, including Nigerians, who take money offshore and do not declare their revenue or pay taxes in their countries pose danger to their country’s credibility.
“I did find out information that Nigerians and Nigerian organisations have 29 private jets registered in South Africa and the issue is how much tax they pay here. We are not even talking about the issue of how they got the money to buy the jets but first of all how much tax they have paid to the Federal Government of Nigeria and the issue about their source would be dealt with later on.
“Another issue that was in the news some weeks ago is that one of the most expensive penthouse suites in New York that was foreclosed and was bought by a Nigerian, who was involved in oil scam deals. The issue is that some countries may ask no questions but USA that allowed that individual to buy a $500 million apartment without asking questions also has a scheme now for all Americans that have investments or bank accounts outside America.
“They have given the countries where they have those accounts a certain time limit to provide that information to them, even without any international legal agreement. So, if developed countries can be looking at their bottom line in terms of tax revenue, we also should.
“For Africa, it is important we help each other. And the only way we can help each other is through this automated exchange. Each African country present here today needs to maximize its revenue through taxation. And the only way to maximize is when we exchange information.”
Making a case for Automated Exchange of Information, Deputy Head of the Global Forum, Mr. Donal Godfrey said: “101 countries have committed to exchange financial accounting automatically, 50 beginning in a few weeks time and another 51 in 2018. These countries include all of the financial centres in the world that hold assets from other countries from around the world.”
“We think it is really important African countries join because at the moment we have only two African countries committed, which are South Africa and Ghana. There have been talks about $50 billion leaving Africa yearly and at global forum, we believe the exchange of financial accounts and information would help.”
He added: “Nigeria has the international agreements that are needed, they probably have or could easily afford the software that we need to do this but will need to be assessed on of receiving information that will have the confidentiality and information security management system. Nigeria has the capacity to do all of these.”
He added that Nigeria also have the capacity to make a commitment to 2019 since it is too late for the nation to be put in place for 2018 requirement.