By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
As no fewer than fifty tax experts from across the globe meet in Abuja to chart ways to combat onshore tax evasion, it has been revealed that Nigeria loses $15 billion to tax evasion annually.
The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler, who made the revelation, said Nigeria would implement the first Automatic Exchange of Information standard by 2020.
He told the participants that the regime was part of the country’s commitment to improve transparency in tax administration, increased tax revenue collection, enhanced effectiveness and efficiency service delivery.
Fowler said there was an important linkage between tax compliance, domestic tax investigation, tax audit, information gathering framework and the international infrastructure for exchange of information amongst authorities and nations.
“Nigeria had demonstrated her commitment to improve transparency around tax matters, when she signed a declaration and joined the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (AEOI) on 17th August 2017.
“Furthermore, to facilitate the process of implementing the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), Nigeria published the AEOI regulations in the Official Gazette of the Federation.
“Finalsed and issued CRS guidelines, constructed and finished a dedicated building for the operation of the AEOI and put in place the necessary Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to operationalize the AEOI processes.
“Nigeria has done all these to enable us conduct the first exchange of information under the automatic exchange of information regime by September 2020.
“I encourage those countries in the ECOWAS sub-region who have not committed to implement the AEOI standards to take necessary steps to do so, especially as the automatic exchange of information portend huge benefits for domestic resource mobilization,’’ Fowler explained.
He noted that increase in mobility of income and assets had created a challenge for tax administration and that government across the world were joining efforts to address such challenges.
Fowler said the challenges offered a global response to the issues of international tax avoidance, tax evasion, illicit financial flows, money laundering and other harmful tax practices based cooperation and use of advanced technologies to tackle the issues.
He added “It is my hope that this seminar will broaden your knowledge and develop your skills on how to use AEOI tools to combat tax evasion and improve domestic revenue mobilization in your countries.
“Also, it is expected that the training will further enhance the effectiveness of participants who are at advance stage of AEOI implementation in their countries to increase the number and quality of outgoing requests to their treaty partners while those of you whose countries have not committed to the implementation of the international standard on AEOI will take steps to do so in view of the enormous benefit to be derived from it.’’
Earlier, Mr. Babatunde Oladapo, the Executive Secretary, West Africa Tax Administration Forum (WATAF), said that the body was committed to contributing to the expansion of the global tax base through exchange of information.
Oladapo said efforts were on the closed gap among nations to ensure effective implementation of exchange of information and that tax administration could only be done successful based on the availability of information.
He commended the OECD Global Forum for leading the drive for the automatic exchange of information that would ensure high network of individuals and multinationals were made to pay their taxes.
In his remarks, the representative of the OECD Global Forum, Ervice Tchonaya, said that forum core mandate was to ensure effective implementation of the international standard for the implementation of the automatic exchange of information among countries.
He said the forum instrument of intervention included Per-Review Process, In-Depth Monitory System and Technical Assistance in the area of capacity building in form of trainings and seminars among others.
The seminar organised by WATAF in partnership with the OECD Global Forum had the theme: “Exechange of Information as a Tool to Combat Offshore Tax Evasion’’ is aimed at sharing experiences and build capacity across borders.