What is the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS)?
Adeola Ibidemi, Mushin, Lagos
The Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS) is the result of Executive Order Number 8 which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 8, 2018. The Scheme covers persons, companies and their intermediaries who own offshore assets and are who default of their tax obligations, whether or not they are under investigation in Nigeria or elsewhere.
The VOARS requires Nigerian taxpayers who own income-earning offshore assets to voluntarily declare and make a one-time payment of 35% on their total value. Alternatively, during the one-year window, they could undergo a forensic audit of the assets and pay outstanding taxes, including penalties and interest; failing which they may be prosecuted for tax and other offences related to the assets.
The Scheme aims to combat money laundering and tax evasion, and will run for 12 months. Thereafter, based on information available to government through automatic exchange of information between it and foreign countries hosting the assets are located, defaulters who do not take advantage of VOARS may be investigated and penalised.
The Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS) resembles the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) launched in 2017. It attracted wide response and led to a boost in tax revenue, widening of the tax net and voluntary tax compliance. VOARS, expected to yield similar results, would also facilitate the regularisation of offshore assets connected to Nigeria.
How VOARS will affect taxpayers who embraced VAIDS remains unclear. Meanwhile, the Executive Order does not specify the assessment period, and the duration of the audit and investigation. Hence the Federal Government is expected to clarify these issues in the days ahead. What is clear is that the Executive Order requires Small Business Owners, whose operations bear offshore assets and incomes, to determine taxes that may be outstanding on their offshore assets/income or make a one-time payment of 35% on the total value of such assets within the 12 month period of grace.