Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance, says regular tax payment by all economically active citizens can protect Nigeria from the shocks associated with commodity boom and bust cycles.
The minister spoke while providing more enlightenment about the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) in Enugu on Thursday.
The Enugu state government, led by Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, played host to the minister.
In 2016, Nigeria’s economy had slipped into a recession after global crude oil prices crashed.
Lamenting the low rate of tax compliance, Adeosun said tax defaulters who who fail to take advantage of the VAIDS programme would be subjected to tax investigations as well as made to face criminal prosecution for tax offences.
“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,” she said.
“Currently, we have just 14 million taxpayers 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.
“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.”
VAIDS is a programme by the ministry of finance and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to allow tax defaulters regularise their payments. The programme will end in March.