FG will tax profits made by digital giants in Nigeria – Osinbajo

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Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN

By Chijioke Okoronkwo

Legal provisions will be utilised to collect taxes on profits made locally by global technology and digital firms not based in Nigeria, but with significant economic presence in the country.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated this during an interaction with a delegation from the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), led by its President, Mr Adesina Adedayo, at the Presidential Villa.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, made this known in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.

“While the Federal Government will not be raising tax rates at this time, based on the Finance Act 2019, it is already empowered to widen the tax net.

“This includes collecting taxes on the Nigerian income of global tech giants with a significant economic presence here, even if they have not established an office or permanent establishment, and are currently not paying taxes in Nigeria.

“In this regard, Section 4 of the Finance Act 2019, provides that the finance minister, may by order of the president, determine what constitutes the significant economic presence of a company, other than a Nigerian company.

“We have had severe economic downturns, which of course implies that we may not be able to collect taxes with the aggressiveness that would ordinarily be expected.

“I think the most important thing is that we must widen our tax net so that more people who are eligible to pay tax are paying,” Osinbajo said.

Akande siad in the statement that the vice president also noted that several efforts had been made in that regard.

“I am sure you are aware of the initiatives including the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which was also an attempt to bring more people into the tax net, including those who have foreign assets.”

According to the vice president, the Federal Government has also recently taken a step with respect to a lot of the technology companies that are not represented in Nigeria, but who do huge volumes of business in the country.

He said that the Finance Act had shown that Nigeria was prepared to ensure that the big technology companies did not escape without their fair share of taxation in Nigeria.

“Many of them do incredible volumes here in Nigeria and in several other parts of the region.

“We have drawn up the regulations and we are prepared to go, and I think that we are at least in a good place to tap into some of the tax resources we can get from some of these companies.

“Besides the Federal Government, a recent Bloomberg news article reported that “Governments around the world are grappling with how to modernise their legal frameworks to account for the global reach of the digital economy, reshaping how policymakers think about issues as varied as monopoly power, taxation and workers’ rights.”

He said that international talks were currently ongoing in Paris on global standard rules for governments to receive taxes from such digital and technology firms with a significant economic presence in foreign countries.

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Osinbajo gave further explanations on legal provisions for the subject matter.

“In Nigeria, according to the Finance Act 2019, a company will pay taxes if it transmits, emits or receives signals, sounds, messages, images or data of any kind by cable, radio, electromagnetic systems, or any other electronic or wireless apparatus to Nigeria.

“This in respect of any activity, including electronic commerce, application store, high-frequency trading, electronic data storage, online adverts, participative network platform, online payments and so on, to the extent that the company has significant economic presence in Nigeria and profit can be attributable to such activity.”

He said that the Federal Government had no plans to raise taxes currently in reference to arguments that tax rates were too low, comparing Nigeria to other places in the region where the rates were much higher.

“So we have had to balance all of these issues because clearly, higher tax rates can be a disincentive to businesses and investments.

“In terms of domestic resource mobilisation, we are trying to do the best we can given the present circumstances and I believe that there is room for improvement.

“Actually, under the Finance Act 2019, the Federal Government has reduced taxes for small companies – companies with less than N25 million in annual turnover are charged Zero Company Income Tax, CIT.

“Also CIT for Companies with revenues between N25 million and N100m (described in the Act as “medium-sized” companies) has been reduced from 30 percent to 20 percent.

“Besides, Nigerians making minimum wage income are not to pay tax at all,” he said.

He said that under the 2020 Finance Act, there was also an exemption of small companies from payment of education tax under the Tertiary Education Trust fund (TETFUND), meaning companies with less than N25 million turnover were eligible.

Osinbajo added there was a 50 per cent reduction in minimum tax; from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent for gross turnover for financial years ending between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021.

Earlier in his remarks, Adedayo commended the leadership of the vice president in the implementation of key government interventions in the economy.

“We acknowledge your great zeal and commitment to the Nigeria project,” he said.

Adedayo said the visit became necessary given the enormous work the administration had done towards addressing the huge fiscal challenges in the polity, public financing reforms, and sustained efforts towards addressing infrastructure deficit.

Other members of the delegation included the Vice President of the Institute, Samuel Olushola Agbeluyi, past Presidents, Dame Gladys Simplice, and Dr James Naiyeju.

In attendance also were; council members Prof. Muhammad Mainoma and Babangida Ibrahim., as well as Adefisayo Awogbade, CITN Registrar/Chief Executive.