The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, today disclosed that about 56 million Nigerians who engage in one business or the other were not paying their taxes as required by law.
She gave this figure at the sensitization programme on the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) hosted by the Enugu State Government in Enugu.
The Minister remarked that Nigeria had a poor scorecard in tax payment, saying that only 14 million people pay tax out of about 70 million economically active people.
She explained: “Payment of taxes is a fundamental requirement for our growth story. Nigeria has a very poor scorecard in tax payment. When oil came, we abandoned the old systems of tax collection that provided most of our infrastructure since colonial days.
“Currently, we have just 14 million tax payers out of 70 million who are economically active. So, many people who should be paying are not paying anything. It is the development of taxes that will help the States and the Federal Government to achieve their true potentials.”
This is even as she declared that regular payment of taxes remained crucial to current efforts by government to achieve sustainable development of the country.
Specifically, the minister pointed out that predictable tax revenue inflow would lead to more investment by the federal and state governments in infrastructure and job and wealth creation nationwide.
While pointing out that payment of taxes had become imperative to avoid the recent collapse in oil prices and the resultant recession, Adeosun assured that the Federal Government would avoid the boom and bust cycles by aligning with nations that have predictable revenues in order to ensure progressive improvements in the quality of life for the citizens.
She recalled that after years of neglect, the Federal Government has revived Federal Road projects including the 9th Mile – Ngwo to Milken Hill to New Market.
The minister said: “Indeed, the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration has completely transformed road expenditure. In 2015, the figure was N19 billion for the whole nation, in 2016 we increased it to N220 billion and we plan to do much more.
“This Government has recognised that infrastructure is the key to creating jobs, growth and wealth. We have already released N1.2 trillion in capital so far for the 2017 Budget, which commenced in June 2017 and most of this was applied to roads, bridges, rail, power, our airports and other key infrastructural projects.
“How will this capital investment translate to jobs? Not only do we get the direct jobs with construction companies and others but there is indirect opportunity for suppliers of building materials and aggregates.
“In the longer-term, efficient infrastructure reduces the costs of doing business and makes many ventures viable and profitable. We are seeing young entrepreneurs springing up to replace imported items with locally made goods of the highest standards, we are seeing export of foods and finished goods into international markets,” Adeosun added.
The minister warned that tax defaulters who failed to take advantage of the VAIDS programme would be subjected to tax investigations as well as made to face criminal prosecution for tax offences
In his remarks at the forum, the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, commended the Federal Government for its “resourcefulness and dynamism” in the establishment of VAIDS.
While urging tax payers to take advantage of the VAIDS to regularise their tax liabilities, the governor appealed to the President and the Minister to prevail on federal agencies in Enugu State to pay their taxes.
The governor also disclosed that the State Government was committed to growing its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
The IGR, according to him, has increased from N14 billion in 2016 to N22 billion in 2017.
The VAIDS programme was attended by the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Deputy Governor, Hon. (Mrs.) Cecilia Ezeilo; Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Edward Uchenna Ubosi; Enugu State Commissioner of Finance, Hon. Eucharia Uche Offor, members of the State Executive Council, members of the Enugu State House of Assembly, and traditional rulers, among others