Nigeria exec order to combat money laundering, tax evasion

Nigeria’s presidency says a new executive order aimed at combating money laundering and tax evasion has been signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari, on Octover 8, 2018; signed Executive Order 008 tagged Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularization Scheme (VOARS). The order takes effect from the day it was signed, the statement issued by Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu noted.

Shehu explained that the VOARS was a two-way order that benefited persons who complied with it and issued punitive measures for those that continued to flout tax regulations with relation to their offshore assets dotted across the world.

“By this order, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and incomes are expected to, within a period of 12 months, declare voluntary those assets and pay taxes on them. When they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits.

“According to the order, “any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent 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 offenses 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,” he added.

The order also clear the way for an overseas VOARS office to be based in Switzerland as part of efforts to liaise with nationals to regularize their tax dealings. The process was also opened to all persons, entities and intermediaries to do what is essentially a civic duty.

He added that Buhari in signing the order bemoaned how citizens home and abroad had woefully failed to fulfill their tax obligations whiles those chased by authorities resort to protracted litigation etc.

“President Buhari is optimistic that the new scheme will help to facilitate the expedient regularization of offshore assets connected to Nigeria and lead to “a new expanded tax base for the Federal Government, and also fund the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund in Switzerland,” Garba’s statement concluded.