The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, has granted the Lagos State government the executive fiat to prosecute tax offenders in the state under the Personal Income Tax Act.
Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Justice, Mr Lanre Akinsola, disclosed this yesterday at a briefing on tax compliance in the state.
“Last week Thursday, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice granted approval to the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Lagos State, Mr Ade Ipaye, to prosecute tax defaulters or evaders. This means that if you don’t pay your tax, you will go to jail and will not be liable to hold any public office position,” he said.
He said any person or cor-porate organisation that fails to submit tax returns for last year by the end of this month has committed an offence.
Earlier, while justifying why Lagos needs to increase its internally generated revenue that was N16billion monthly last year, the Special Assistant to the Lagos state Governor on Taxation and Revenue, Mr Abimbola Sodipo, said the challenge was funding the 106 new projects to be executed by the state.
He said available data show that out of the 20million population of the state, eight million are workers but only 2 .7million pay tax, while 5.3million do not.
Noting that Lagos has adopted advocacy, enlightenment, awards and recognition, among others, to encourage payment of tax, he said: “Now we are moving to a vigorous enforcement level. We will prosecute and refuse to listen to any concessions or waivers.”
Chairman, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), Tunde Fowler, said the days the state relied on Abuja for much of its revenue are over.
He said funds from the Federation Account accounted for only 51.14 per cent of the state revenue for 2007 while it decreased to 37 per cent last year.
He said if every taxable person pays his tax in the state monthly internally generated revenue would increase to N20billion and this would help to build more infrastructure.
He explained that in the government’s proactive effort to ensure compliance with the taxation policy, a total of 610 companies were sealed up between 2010 and 2011 with N1,334,519,040.73 billion recovered.
Fowler enumerated the various punishments for failure to pay the Personal Income Tax. He said 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 7 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.