The fact that we’re seeing so many tax amendments is a good thing. It shows that legislators are working double-time to remove the inefficiencies in Nigeria’s tax system and make it easier to collect your money.
If you’re not paying tax yet in this country, our solemn advice is: relax, comrade, e go reach everybody!
That said, what are the latest amendments the tax man wants you to know? Below is a roundup of the top updates. (For some warm-up reading, check out our updates on the Finance Act 2019 and Finance Act 2020.)
1. SECURITIES TAX
Financial literacy has recently become a big deal in Nigeria. Apps like Bamboo, Cowrywise, and Piggyvest are helping people save and invest their money profitably. Apart from this, the increasing popularity of angel investing and capital raises by Nigerian start-ups is minting millionaires daily.
Well, if 2021 was your lucky year, you should know that the tax man has your number. Per the new provisions in the Finance Act (FA 2021) – which entered into force on 1 January 2022, sales of shares in a registered Nigerian company have become liable to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) at a rate of 10%.[i]
This will not apply where the total shares you sell in a year amounts to less than N100 million. Also, even if you sell shares higher than N100m, the new law will not apply to you if you reinvest the proceeds from the sale in the same or another Nigerian company within the year of sale.
Likewise, if you want to chill with the big boys and not worry about CGT on share disposal, just sell small Nigerian government securities. They are CGT-exempt! These securities include treasury bonds, savings certificates, etc.
So, chin up investor, WAGMI!
2. EXPENSIVE TASTES
Lovers of Bigi, Coca-Cola, “Orobo”, and co., get ready for this one because you just got served, chilled.
FA 2021 has introduced a new excise duty rate of N10 per litre on “non-alcoholic, carbonated, and sweetened beverages.”[ii] Preliminary indications suggest that all “soft drinks” sold in the country, including non-alcoholic wines and energy drinks, will be subject to this tax.
So, if you’re in the “three bottles of coke a day” category, we would like to thank you in advance for funding the 2023 national budget.
3. FIRS IS NOW OGA AT THE TOP
Remember the 2021 tussle between NIPOST and FIRS over which agency has the right to collect stamp duties? Well, FA 2021 has chosen the champion.
It provides that the FIRS is the primary authority in charge of administering, collecting, and enforcing federal taxes and levies.[iii] It also makes the FIRS (Establishment) Act supreme over other tax laws. Essentially, FG don wipe NIPOST USB cord for neck. Ouch.
In addition, the Act clearly puts the FIRS in charge of assessing, collecting, and enforcing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) Levy.[iv] The Levy is originally created under the NPTF Act which imposes a 0.005% tax on the net profit of companies operating in Nigeria.
Interestingly, FA 2021 expressly gives the FIRS authority to use technology in its tax administration duties.
Now, the FIRS may not only use its own software, but also third-party technology to aid in its duties. However, taxpayers must get at least 30 days’ notice before using any such software.[v]
4. COMPANIES AFFAIRS
The most extensive amendments in FA 2021 relate to the Companies Income Tax (CIT) Act. We’ll outline the top provisions below.
a. Education Left Out
We’ve written before about the controversial exemption of charitable, ecclesiastical, and educational organizations from tax. Apparently, FA has evicted educational organisations from this CIT exemption list.
The profits of Companies that carry on educational activities will now be subject to CIT at the applicable rate.[vi] This amendment will not apply to educational institutions that are not registered as Companies.
b. GUI Double Dippers
For companies that have previously claimed both Pioneer Status and Gas Utilization Incentives (GUI), the FG is saying it can handle the double jeopardy no more.
The Finance Act 2019 previously barred companies from claiming both incentives. Now, the Finance Act 2021 similarly bars companies from claiming GUI, more than once.[vii]
Companies are also prevented from cutting through the corners by claiming the incentive after a re-organization, restructuring, buy-back, or any similar scheme.
c. Minimum Tax Rate Reduction
There’s some good news for companies! The Finance Act 2020 previously introduced a minimum tax relief to cushion the effects of COVID-19.
Companies’ minimum tax liability was reduced from 0.5% to 0.25% for the accounting years falling between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021. But there were questions over the fate of Companies that filed their tax returns before 1 January 2020.
The Finance Act 2021 has settled these questions by providing that tax returns filed between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2021 will enjoy the incentive.[viii]
Nonetheless, there are still questions over the fate of taxpayers that remitted the 0.5% minimum tax for the relevant period before the clarification (i.e. 1 January 2019 – 31 December 2020). Question no dey finish.
Heads up, though. Companies that don’t file their CIT returns by the due date who then claim the minimum tax relief will be liable to a penalty equal to the value of the relief. This simply means they will not be able to enjoy the minimum tax relief.
d. Best of Judgment (BoJ) Assessment for NRCs
In its continuing effort to tax the digital economy, the FG has expanded BoJ rules to Non-Resident Companies (NRCs) that have a Significant Economic presence (SEP) in Nigeria. (We explained SEP very simply here).
Essentially, FIRS applies this BoJ approach when it believes a company has declared less profits than it actually made or when it fails to file any CIT returns.
Before, these rules could not apply to Non-Resident Companies (NRCs) rendering digital services because our law was not attuned to their scope of operation. But now, FA 2021 captures these Companies under BoJ rules.
So digital service NRCs that have SEP in Nigeria may be subject to a BoJ assessment if they qualify under the rules stated above.[ix]
5. EDUCATION IS GETTING MORE FUNDSSSSS
In other news, FA 2021 bumped up the rate of Tertiary Education Tax (TET) from 2% to 2.5% of Nigerian companies’ assessable profits.[x] This tax is what funds those “TETFund” projects that are so common in Nigerian universities.
Good news for Nigerian students, though not so good for Companies. And the gbas gbos doesn’t end there. The Act has also reduced the period allowed for remitting TET from 60 days to 30 days.[xi]
6. ELECTRONIC MONEY TRANSFER LEVY (EMTL)
The EMTL was previously introduced by Finance Act 2019 to a lot of controversy as folks lamented the government’s move to tax “money wey never reach.”
Now, FA 2021 has empowered the Minister of Finance to make regulations governing the collection, allocation, distribution, etc. of the Levy.[xii]
In addition, the Act requires all collected EMTLs to be distributed within 30 days after the month of collection. As e dey hot!
7. VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT) FOR NRPs
In this new dispensation, the FG is serious about tackling non-residents – Companies and individuals alike.
Per FA 2021, every non-resident person (NRP) that makes a taxable supply of goods or services to Nigeria must register for VAT and obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN).[xiii]
It doesn’t end here. The usual rule requires the person who receives a taxable supply from a NRP to withhold VAT and remit to FIRS. Now, FA 2021 empowers the FIRS to switch things up.
Instead, FIRS can now appoint the NRP itself as a tax agent, thereby obligating it to withhold and remit its own VAT.[xiv] Smooth eh?
The Act allows the NRP to appoint a Nigerian representative to help fulfil its tax obligations. Although, if the NRP fails in its duty, the obligation will revert to the Nigerian recipient of the supply.
8. NATIONAL AGENCY FOR SCIENCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE (NASENI) LEVY
Awon omo science student, listen up.
Previously, the NASENI Levy (calculated at 0.25% of turnover) was to be paid by all Commercial Companies who had a turnover of N4 million or more.
FA 2021 has now reduced the scope of Companies required to pay NASENI to only companies in banking, mobile communication, ICT, aviation, maritime, and oil and gas where they have a turnover of N100 million or more.[xv]
Good news? Depends on what sector your Company is in!
9. PERSONAL MATTERS
FA 2021 also cares about your life. Or your death. 💀
If you are liable to tax under the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) you can now claim your annual life insurance premium amounts as deductible expenses. You can claim this deduction personally or for a payment made on behalf of your spouse.[xvi]
By the way, the tax man is warning you in this new year, that if you don’t comply with any provision in the PITA, you’re going down! FA 2021 says that upon conviction, you will be liable to a fine of N20,000.xvii
20k is small abi? Well where the offence relates to you not keeping the appropriate records or filing returns when due, you are liable to a further sum of N2,000 for every day that your failure continues. So if you default for a whole year, you get to pay the tax man a whooping N750,000 at the minimum. #ThinkAbourrit.
Overall, the Finance Act 2021 continues the good work that the previous enactments set in motion. Yes, we’re steadily getting buried in never-ending Finance Acts. But that’s probably a decent trade-off if it revamps our tax system and makes it easier for us to pay taxes.
What do you think about the new amendments in FA 2021? Share your thoughts with us in our comments section!
Opeoluwa is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.FINANCE-ACT-2021
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[i] Section 2, Finance Act 2021 (FA 2021)
[ii] Section 17, FA 2021
[iii] Section 22, FA 2021
[iv] Section 36, FA 2021
[v] Section 18, FA 2021
[vi] Section 7, FA 2021
[vii] Section 11, FA 2021
[viii] Section 10, FA 2021
[ix] Section 4, FA 2021
[x] Section 28, FA 2021
[xi] Section 29, FA 2021
[xii] Section 27, FA 2021
[xiii] Section 30, FA 2021
[xiv] Section 31, FA 2021
[xv] Section 37, FA 2021
[xvi] Section 23, FA 2021
[xvii] Section 26, FA 2021