Amid allegations of tax invasion by about 150 wealthy Nigerians, the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), has expressed its readiness to assist the Federal Government in tracing some of their assets with a view of identifying them.
It also said the professional body is fully in support of the government’s policy on ‘Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration’, and has directed its members to work with the regulatory authorities. They include the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Joint Tax Board (JTB), and the States Internal Revenue Services, in implementing the decision.
The 53rd President of the Institute, Ismaila Zakari, who stated at the weekend in Lagos, urged government at all levels to consult ICAN, as many of its members are not only Chartered Accountants but also skilled in the field of auditing, forensic accounting and asset tracing.
He said: “Government is trying to do is carry out some form of asset tracing, and so our members are equipped to support the government in that direction. However, our thinking is that since the government came up with the voluntary asset and income declaration policy, which has given a window of nine months within which individuals, who have hitherto not registered within the tax net over the last six years could come voluntarily declare, in that process they are not going to be prosecuted or penalised.
“What government needs to do is that if it has information, it should prompt some of this individual and advise them that within this nine-month window, they should come and take advantage of the window created. If people have evaded tax, tax invasion is a breach of the law and a case of non-compliance with the rules and regulations. If the government is aware of anyone that has evaded tax, they should leak the information a bit to the individual concerned because we need to now begin to see voluntary compliance for people to come into the tax net and that will mean more money for government.”
He observed that government’s decision to pay its contractors all outstanding liabilities is the best policy, adding this would put money in the hands of many people, wake up many moribund companies, but equally advised that accruable taxes should be deducted before paying them to expand Nigeria’s ailing economy
He also spoke about ‘NOCLAR’, a new Code of Ethics for professional accountants that sets out a ‘first-of-its-kind framework’ to guide practitioners in what actions to take in the public interest when they become aware of a potential illegal act, known as Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations, committed by a client or employer.
Zakari explained that the standard applies to all categories of professional accountants, including auditors, and other professional accountants in the public practice and professional accountants in the private sector.
He said the code will play a unique role in eliminating breaches of laws and regulations that deal with matters such as; fraud, corruption, bribery, money laundering, tax payments, financial products and services and environmental protection amongst others.
To implement the policy, he disclosed that the Institute would consult the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the National Pension Commission, and other regulators on modalities for its full implementation.