Lagos moves to prosecute tax defaulters

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN (middle) and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye (right)

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN (middle) and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye (right)

Lagos State Government, yesterday, announced its plans to move against tax defaulters in the state.  This came as the state has received a go ahead order from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to begin prosecution of Personal Income Tax offenders beginning  April 1, 2012, in accordance with the implementation of Personal Income Tax Act of 2011.

The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos, Mr. Ade Ipaye and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Justice Sector Reform, Mr. Lanre Akinsola, said yesterday: “Just last week, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr Muhammed Adoke, gave the Lagos State Commissioner for Justice, the fiat to prosecute tax offenders in the state under the personal income tax act.

“The implication of this is that we now have the full authority to prosecute criminal offences either under the revenue administration law of the state or the personal income tax law of the state.

“Today (yesterday) is the 20th of March and under the personal income tax law that was amended, any tax payer resident in Lagos State must file his tax return for last year on or before the 31st of this month. That is the statutory obligation. The implication is that in the next 10 days, anyone who has not filed his tax return with the LIRS has committed an offence. And not to file tax return is a criminal offence and to also file wrongly is also punishable under the law.”

Speaking earlier, Special Adviser to the Governor on Taxation, Mr. Abimbola Shodipo, said a good number of residents in the state earning taxable incomes did not pay their taxes to the state government, saying, the trend posed a threat  to the capacity of government to implement developmental  projects.

“Now we are on the enforcement level. There will be vigorous enforcement and that will include prosecution where applicable and we will not listen to any plea for waivers or concessions on penalties. Once we charge you, we charge you.”

Shodipo said the civil service and the big corporations accounted for most of those that complied with their tax payments while the defaulters were mainly in the informal sector.

Worst tax offenders

Shodipo fingered informal sector operators and professionals as the worst tax offenders, reiterating government’s determination to get the group into its tax net.

He asked: “Why should a few people be sustaining all of us? Those who do not pay taxes are enemies of the state. Lagos State will no longer tolerate tax defaulters.”

Shodipo disclosed that the state government would not grant any waiver or concession to anybody, insisting that responsibilities of the state government is increasing while the resource base is not expanding.

He said the state government would no longer rely on handouts from Abuja to sustain its operations, noting that it was a criminal offence for anybody not to pay tax.

Punishments

Chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, enumerated the various punishments for failure to pay the Personal Income Tax.

According to him, failure by a banker to render returns, books, documents and information on demand within seven days attracts a fine of N500,000 for a corporate body and N50,000 for an individual, while failure by banker to render information about new customer within seven days attracts N500,000 for corporate body and N50,000 for an individual.

For an employer of labour, the PITA states that failure to deduct or remit tax will attract 10 per cent of tax not deducted, plus interest at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Monetary Policy Rate.

Also failure to file returns by employers attracts a N500,000 fine for a corporate body and N50,000 for an individual while failure to demand and verify tax clearance certificate attracts N50,000 fine or three years jail or both. Making incorrect returns attract N20,000, while false statement and returns attract N50, 000 fine for an individual and imprisonment for six months.

Equally, a false statement by person in relation to tax payable or repayable attracts N10,000 fine or imprisonment for not more than six months.

By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Monsur Olowoopejo &  Providence Obuh

In : Lagos

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