Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance, says the ministry has discovered 800,000 companies that have never paid tax.
She said the ministry is compiling a database that combines data from the various arms of government, including bank records, property and company ownership, and customs records.
Adeosun said the ministry had also enlisted one of the world’s premier private investigation agencies to trace overseas assets.
She said a situation where there are only 14 million taxpayers from an economically active database of 70 million people is no longer acceptable.
The minister made the points in an article titled, ‘All Change, Nigeria is not an oil economy’.
“The historical government apathy towards revenue mobilisation is one of the effects of the mistaken identity that saw Nigeria perceive itself as an oil economy. This administration is determined to correct this identity crisis and all its concomitant effects,” she said.
“Over 800,000 companies, including some government contractors, that have never paid taxes have already been identified and are being audited. This is an unprecedented initiative that entails cooperation between the federal and state governments.”
However, Adeosun did not disclose the details of the companies involved.
“Taxing the high net-worth and Nigeria’s huge community of entrepreneurs constitutes a critical but yet attainable target,” she said.
“The statistics for corporate tax payment shows the debilitating effects of base erosion and profit-shifting as well as abuse of an overly generous tax incentive and duty waiver system.”
The ministry of finance in collaboration with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has already launched a Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) which gives tax defaulters a grace period to pay their taxes without penalty.