In a period the Nigerian government is looking to increase its revenue base, foreigners with business visas are reportedly taking advantage of the Free Trade Zones to evade tax payment for businesses and work done in Nigeria.
Illegal foreigners are revenue leaks: It was disclosed that the foreigners were going about their business activities without valid visas, as the ones with them already expired. This means that the affected foreigners are in the country illegally and using the Free Trade Zones as their shelter. This is the migrants’ method of evading the taxes that should be paid to the Nigerian government
According to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, the foreigners with expired visas were having permanent stay without government approval. They were also not remitting their taxes to the government as a result of their illegal stay.
“We were made to know that some of them come in with only business visa and after the expiration of three months of stay, they disappeared into different areas of the country like the Free Trade Zones.
“When you look at the Free Zones today, the majority of workers there are Asians who came into Nigeria for business visit and before you know it, they have permanent stay without the approval of government and without paying kobo into government revenue coffers.
“We believe that the Senate Committee on Interior in the ninth Senate is aware of this and the Committee of Public Petitions is also aware of this.
“So we are calling on the Minister of Interior to be on the same page with the National Assembly for the lawmakers to give them the Bible of Revenue generation in its agencies,” Akinyelure said while suggesting that in order to curb this evasion, the Nigerian Immigration Service needed to prevent migrants’ influx into Nigeria.
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Tax evasion harmful to Nigeria: Recall that the Nigerian government had intensified its revenue mobilisation effort because the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, said Nigeria had a revenue problem. This has led to frantic effort to beef up revenue through several channels including tax reform to fund capital projects.
Recall that the Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Muhammed Nami already expressed doubt over the possibility of meeting President Buhari’s N8.5 trillion revenue target. With this level of tax evasion by migrants, the chances of achieving it continue to look slimmer. And failure to mobilise the needed revenue will affect the completion of capital projects.
It also increases the need for the Nigerian government to borrow, therefore compounding Nigeria’s debt problem. Akinyelure said the country can no longer afford to continue borrowing just to finance budget and infrastructure.