Recently, the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) sitting at Lagos held that a taxpayer can object via online means to FIRS tax assessments. This decision was made in Earth Moving International Limited v FIRS.
FIRS assessed Earth Moving International Limited (Earth Moving), to tax of over Twenty-Five Million Naira. Earth Moving objected to this tax assessment and the FIRS issued a revised assessment. This revised assessment was served on Earth Moving on 29 August 2018. Earth Moving again objected to the revised assessment through an email Notice of Objection dated 26th September 2018 which was also physically served on the FIRS on 2nd October, 2018.
FIRS however stated that Earth Moving filed the Notice of Objection out of time making the revised assessment final and conclusive. Earth Moving however maintained that it filed the objection within time by the email and physical objection but since the FIRS was not giving it face, it instituted this action against FIRS at the TAT.
The TAT held that Section 69 of Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), gives a taxpayer the opportunity to object to an assessment by the FIRS within 30 days from the date that the notice of assessment was served. FIRS served the revised tax assessment on Earth Moving on 29 August, 2018 and Earth Moving thus had 30 days i.e. till 28 September, 2018 to object.
Earth Moving sent the Notice of Objection to the Tax Controller of FIRS Lagos Zone on 27 September, 2018 via email and received a delivery receipt notification. Also, there was a strike on 27 and 28 of September 2018 and the 1st of October 2018 was a public holidaY. Earth Moving then sent the physical notice of objection on 2nd October.
TAT held that as CITA did not provide the means by which the Notice of Objection must be served (it just provided that it must be in writing), the email objection was valid. The TAT also stated that as Earth Moving could not have physically served its Notice of Objection on the 28th of September because of the public holiday, the physical service on the 2nd of October sufficed. The TAT thus held that Earth Moving had fulfilled its legal obligations as provided for by CITA.
The law allows taxpayers to object to taxes that the tax authorities visits on them. Generally, the period for objection is 30 days from the date you receive a letter from the tax authorities telling you the amount of taxes you are to pay. If you do not object within the timeframe given by law, you lose your right of objection and it is deemed that you have accepted that you will pay the tax. The assessment thus becomes final and conclusive!
Earth Moving in this case was being smart, you know. They sharparly sent their Notice of Objection via email to FIRS when they realized that the last date stipulated by law would be a public holiday and that FIRS can like to say that one does not concern them, which is exactly what they did.
Now that the TAT has held that any objection to a tax assessment suffices as long as it is written, you now know that the tax authorities ti wa online!
Moral lesson however is, don’t joke with tax authorities and deadlines. You can be proactive and gbe bodi, finding creative means to comply with the tax laws and guess what? you may actually stand a chance of the TAT backing you up just like it did for Earth Moving. Be like Earth Moving!