United Kingdom’s new law which required foreigners who own properties to identify their source of income has reportedly thrown many Nigerians into panic making several calls to the Federal Ministry of Finance’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme hotlines , leading the lines to crash on Friday.
A source at the VAIDs office told the News Agency of Nigeria that the unprecedented level of calls was not unconnected with the new UK regulation on Unexplained Wealth Orders.
The source disclosed that the VAIDs office received massive calls and frantic requests from tax payers based in the UK in the last 72 hours, asking for extension of time to enable them complete their VAIDS declaration forms.
The UK Government had, last week, introduced the law, which states that the UWOs could be obtained on any property or combination of properties valued at 50,000 pounds (N25m) or more, for which the owner is unable to explain a legal source of its funding.
The source said the data already in the possession of the VAIDS office in the Federal Ministry of Finance revealed that many UK property owners had underpaid their taxes before transferring funds overseas to buy properties.
“Concerted efforts are ongoing to restore the hotlines following the crash on Friday.
“Most of the calls received are from high net worth individuals, including company executives, bankers and even a governor.
“All seem to be in panic over the prospect of losing their investments,” said a source within the VAIDS Office.
The official said that some of the apprehensive Nigerian property investors in UK had even visited the Federal Ministry of Finance, requesting to see the minister and also the Head of the VAIDS office.
The source explained that most of the inquiries were about seeking assurance from the Nigerian government that the VAIDs programme could protect them from potential asset forfeiture to the UK Government.
Others requested to know if their names had appeared on the lists the VAIDS office had obtained from overseas.
The UWO law, coupled with the revelation that many foreign governments are automatically sharing bank and property information with Nigeria, has resulted in an upsurge in inquiries about VAIDS.
VAIDS allows Nigerian tax payers to restate their income and assets without limit and thus could potentially allow those who own properties that cannot be explained by their previously declared income to regularise by declaring and paying the correct taxes.