GRATUITIES ARE WHOLLY TAX-EXEMPT: NIGERIAN BREWERIES V. ABIA STATE BOARD OF INTERNAL REVENUE

The Tax Appeal Tribunal has now ruled that gratuities are wholly exempt from tax. This decision was made in the case of Nigerian Breweries v. Abia State Board of Internal Revenue which marks a victory for taxpayers.

In this case, Nigerian Breweries argued that the gratuities it paid to its retired employees were wholly exempt from Personal Income Tax (PIT) while the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue argued that the gratuities paid were not wholly exempt from PIT.

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To resolve this issue, the Tax Appeal Tribunal had to look at the section of the law that charges persons to personal income tax. The Tribunal mentioned that Section 3 of the Personal Income Tax Act was the charging section for the PIT. It then proceeded to invoke the mischief rule to look into and interprete the Section 3.

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In the end, the Tribunal declared that since ‘gratuity’ has been deleted or excluded from the charging section, then it is not a chargeable income, that is, the Tribunal held that gratuities are wholly exempt from PIT. As such, Nigerian Breweries won the case.

Things to consider

Gratuities are a retirement benefit. It’s the employer’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to the employee for his services. Putting taxes on gratuities does not really help because all it does is to place extra burden and it gives an extra obligation to pay tax. Why must taxes be paid because I’m being grateful to my employee?

This gratuity decision may anyway bring about a wave of tax evasion as people will want to exploit the exemption. It is also important to note that the current decision is the position until otherwise decided by a superior court.

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