Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday gave tax defaulters in the state up to April 12, to come forward and remit their taxes to the State Internal Revenue Service or face the wrath of the law.
Fashola, who spoke at a stakeholders’ conference for professionals at the Civic Centre, Lagos, said the grace period was to allow those already in court and others who feign ignorance of tax laws to pay up.
He warned that government after April 12 will not hesitate to prosecute any tax defaulter, urging all taxable adults to comply with the law.
The Governor also warned that there would be no sacred cows when the state begins a total clampdown on defaulters.
“I know that despite what we do here, some people will not still pay, our position is that we would let them have their day in court because we would meet them in court and where the need be, we would apply the sanctions; I will be uncompromising then. So this meeting is an appeal to conscience, good citizenship and commitment.
“But we would not stop at that, we have seen some whom we have taken to court, they have already started coming to pay and this meeting also announces that we would give a further grace period because we have compiled the list of groups of people who have defaulted, I want to use this meeting to give those people time to respond, so we would hold on until Friday, April 12, after that we would have to do our job.”
Urging professionals to lead from the front, the Governor said the statistics show that out of about 8,000,000 taxable adults in the state only 3,000,100 persons pay.
He said the taxes remitted to the government presently are mostly those of salary earners.
“I think that the professional associations like ICAN, NBA, NACCIMA, NMA, CITN, Actors Guild and a whole lot more constitute a critical mass for us, if they can go back and tell their members who are self-employed to contribute their own share to this commonwealth, I think that we can do a lot more than we have done.”
On the Lagos State Hospitality Occupancy and Consumption Tax Law 2010, Fashola revealed that 82 hotels have taken government to court to evade paying the tax.
Explaining the law, he said the hotels are not the ones to bear the burden of the tax, but those who access their facilities.
He noted that out of about 2,109 hotels in Lagos, only 634 have fully complied, while 263 have complied but not up to date.
“I recognise their rights to go to court, but we would vigorously defend that case. 1,090 have simply refused to comply but they are making business only because the poor have paid their taxes and we have used those taxes to boost security,” Fashola said.
He said the state could not rely on what it receives from the Federation Account (FAC).
“Oil revenue will drop in future and the FAC we receive monthly which is about N8 billion will also reduce with time; what this means is that we need to put our house together so that we would not be caught unawares.
“Your government has seen this trend and we are working to prepare for a life without oil,” Fashola added.