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MultiChoice Vs FIRS: Tax Tribunal’s Strange Flip-flop

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multichoice nigeria

By Bashir Oyintiloye

Over the last three months, the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) has been among the headlines, notably for the tax disputes between pay television service provider, MultiChoice Nigeria, its parent company, MultiChoice Africa Holdings, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

It is a safe bet that the TAT has the attention of the business and investment communities locked on it, as it carries enormous implications. 

It is unlikely to be otherwise, particularly with the wildly different rulings it delivered in very similar matters it ruled on.

The most recent, delivered in Abuja on 26 October, saw the tribunal dismiss the appeal of MultiChoice Africa Holdings against an alleged $342million Value Added Tax bill given to it by the FIRS.

The TAT, in delivering its ruling, upheld the objection of the FIRS to the appeal of MultiChoice Africa Holdings, stating that the company had neglected to comply with Order 3 Rule 6 of the TAT (Procedure) Rules, 2021, which were issued by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Shamsuna Zainab Ahmed in June but did not become public knowledge until late in September.

Order 3 Rule 6 of the new TAT rules requires an appellant to pay half of the disputed assessment as security deposit before it could file an appeal before the tribunal. It also requires the appellant to file an affidavit verifying the payment, which TAT also ruled that MultiChoice Africa Holdings failed to comply with.

Curiously, a week before, the TAT, sitting in Lagos, in the appeal filed by MultiChoice Nigeria, had ruled in favour of the appellant, dismissing the FIRS’ objection to the continuation of the appeal. The Nigerian subsidiary had filed an appeal against the alleged tax liability of N1.8 trillion issued to it by the FIRS. On 24 August, the tribunal, relying on Paragraph 15 (7) Fifth Schedule of the FIRS Establishment Act, directed MultiChoice Nigeria to pay a security deposit for its appeal to be heard. The FIRS interpreted the ruling to mean that MultiChoice Nigeria should pay N900 billion, 50 per cent of the disputed assessment, for the appeal to be heard.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on 23 September, MultiChoice Nigeria argued that it had complied with the tribunal’s ruling and Paragraph 15 (7) of the FIRS Act via the payment of N8 billion in two tranches.

Paragraph 15 (7) of the FIRS Act gives the tribunal power to direct an appellant, in certain circumstances, to make a security deposit for the continuation of an appeal. pay 50 percent of the tax paid the previous year plus 10 percent mark-up as security before prosecuting an appeal.

The FIRS, however, urged the TAT to discontinue the hearing of the appeal and rule against the company if it failed to show proof of full compliance with the directive to pay N900 billion, 50 percent of the N1.8 trillion tax assessment, for the years under review.

The TAT adjourned till 20 October and on the day, it dismissed the FIRS’ objection to the appeal.

“It is obvious that the appellant has not only complied with the orders of this court but has also provided sufficient evidence before this tribunal that they are credible and ready to pursue this matter with all sense of responsibility and seriousness. It is only fair and just that they are given the privilege to do so,” ruled the tribunal.

The tribunal also disagreed with the FIRS that MultiChoice Nigeria was required to pay half of the assessment for all the years under review, ruling that the FIRS Act explicitly says the “preceding-year”, not “years.”

I have found it mystifying, dangerous even, that the tribunal sang from different hymn sheets, relying on the new TAT rules for one ruling and the FIRS Act for the other. As tax and legal experts have pointed out, the new TAT rules-a body of subsidiary legislations-cannot override the provisions of an act.  The blanket 50 per cent payment prescribed by the new tax tribunal procedures is inconsistent with the FIRS Act, which lists the conditions under which a directive on deposit may be issued. The tribunal, states the section, may direct the payment of security deposit if the FIRS proves that an appellant has, for the year of assessment, failed to file returns or deems the appeal an abuse of the appeal process or it is expedient to require the appellant to pay an amount as security for prosecuting the appeal. 

If any of these conditions are present, the section states that the tribunal may adjourn the hearing and order the appellant to deposit with the FIRS an amount “on account of the tax charged by the assessment under appeal, equal to the tax charged upon the appellant for the preceding year of assessment or one half of the tax charged by the assessment under appeal, whichever is the lesser plus a sum equal to ten percent of the said deposit”.

Former Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), was quoted in the media as describing Order 3 Rule 6 as akin to a forced admission of liability before actual adjudication of the dispute.

 “This will amount to forced admission of liability before adjudication of dispute contrary to our justice system of fair hearing and equality before the law,” he said.

Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Mr. Monday Ubani, expressed similar sentiments, saying the new rules are at variance with the grain of rationality and the country’s legal jurisprudence. 

“It is an affront to the rights of fair hearing and access to justice guaranteed by the constitution of Nigeria. I have personally written to the Minister of Finance over this issue and highlighted the dangers of the Rules, which are capable of stifling businesses and sending a wrong signal to prospective investors,” Ubani stated.

The glaring inconsistency of the tribunal’s last ruling with the substantive legislation is a curious one. In addition to being unjust, it also carries the potential to injure the economic well-being of the country. The new tribunal rules effectively empower tax authorities to come up with whimsical assessments and prevent the taxpayer from appealing. The latter will create cash flow problems for businesses, suffocating them, and making the country’s investment environment unappealing to domestic and foreign investors.

Oyintiloye, investor and public commentator, writes from Ibadan

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ASR Africa Supports Govt. Healthcare Development With N2.5BN Grant In Edo State

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ASR AFRICA SUPPORTS HEALTHCARE DEVELOPMENT IN EDO STATE WITH N2.5BN GRANT TO EDO STATE GOVERNMENT

ASR AFRICA SUPPORTS HEALTHCARE DEVELOPMENT IN EDO STATE WITH N2.5BN GRANT TO EDO STATE GOVERNMENT

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative (ASR Africa) – the brainchild of Industrialist, philanthropist, and founder of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, has provided a grant of 2.5billion Naira to the Edo State Government towards the equipping of the New Stella Obasanjo Hospital in Benin City currently being reconfigured, upgraded, and expanded to a 250-bed specialist hospital.

This donation makes Edo State the fourth state after Sokoto, Ogun, and Kwara states to receive a 2.5billion Naira grant from ASR Africa’s 10bn Naira Tertiary Healthcare Systems Support Grants Scheme for 2021 drawn from the Annual ASR Africa $100million Fund for Social Development and Renewal.

Presenting the grants award letter to Governor Godwin Obaseki in Edo State, Ubon Udoh, Managing Director, ASR Africa Initiative said the 2.5billion Naira Healthcare grant to Edo State, was in fulfillment of the pledge made by the founder of ASR Africa, Alh. Abdul Samad Rabiu, in June 2021 when he specifically set aside 10billion Naira for tertiary healthcare interventions in 4 states in Nigeria.

He further added that the 2.5billion grant, which will be put towards equipping the new Stella Obasanjo Hospital, will go a long way in raising the standard of care accessible in the region. He also commended Governor Godwin Obaseki, for his commitment to healthcare development at all levels within the State.

“We are here to present to you a letter of award for N2.5 billion grant for tertiary healthcare support system scheme to support the Stella Obasanjo Hospital.”

ASR AFRICA SUPPORTS HEALTHCARE DEVELOPMENT IN EDO STATE WITH N2.5BN GRANT TO EDO STATE GOVERNMENT

“We are going to start by putting an initial deposit of N1.25billion in a joint account between ASR Africa and Edo State Government; I want to congratulate you and your team. We want to thank you for the commitment you’ve shown towards bettering the lives of your people and the quality of leadership you’ve shown and which we have seen. I want to assure you that this is the beginning of a partnership between ASR and the Edo State Government,” he said.

Governor Obaseki, whilst thanking the ASR Africa Initiative for the grant, stated that his government decided to improve healthcare delivery in the state by renovating, improving, and upgrading the Stella Obasanjo Hospital to a 250-bed hospital. He also added that new buildings and services are being added to complement and support the existing complex.

According to Governor Obaseki, “We are very concerned about healthcare in Nigeria with the post-COVID-19 economy. We are determined to make Edo a healthcare hub in Nigeria. The healthcare system is really about the people. Infrastructure is important. If you don’t have the people that are properly trained, then the equipment will just be fancy for tourism. Within the Edo axis, we can muster up to five thousand doctors in different specialisations.

“If we have access to people who can provide quality healthcare and have world-class institutions or facilities to provide that training, then we should do it. Having the right governance means an arrangement where people don’t need to travel to get the kind of care they need.

“We are very keen and are anxious to get this started. For us as a state, we just try and execute. Hopefully, next week, we will establish a joint account and the procurement process has to be accelerated; within the next four to six weeks, let the orders be placed.

“I want to thank and appreciate you and the people of Edo will eternally be grateful. We can now proudly say that you have one of your largest investments in Africa in Edo and this is what they are contributing to the lives of our people,” he added.

The brainchild of African Industrialist, Philanthropist, and Chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, the Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative (ASR Africa) was established in 2021 to provide sustainable, impact-based homegrown solutions to developmental issues affecting Health, Education, and Social Development within Africa.

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Kenneth Amaeshi, Chris Ogbechie, Other Professionals To Speak At ASPN’ Seminar On Implementation Of SDG8

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…Tagged; Implementing SDG 8 in Nigeria: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?

…Theme; Implementing SDG 8 in Nigeria: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN) will on Monday 29 November 2021, at 10 am host its flagship webinar series with the theme “Implementing SDG 8: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?”, which aims to tackle the issues and challenges faced by the sustainability profession and its professionals in the implementation of the SDGs within the context of SDG 8 in Nigeria. 

Speakers at the event include Ismail Omamegbe, Director, Advocacy & Stakeholder Relations Directorate, ASPN; Professor Chris Ogbechie, Dean, Lagos Business School; and Professor Kenneth Amaeshi, Chair, Business, and Sustainable Development, University of Edinburgh. Others are Rukaiya el-Rufai, Partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC West Africa; Amarakoon Bandara, Ph.D., Senior Economic Adviser, UNDP; Soromidayo George, Director, Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Business, Unilever, West Africa; and Dr. Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, Co-Chair, Private Sector Advisory Group on SDGs, Nigeria.

…Tagged; Implementing SDG 8 in Nigeria: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?

Participants at the webinar will, among other things, get a clearer understanding of the challenges associated with Nigeria’s SDGs implementation journey as well as the fundamental linkage between SDG8 and other SDGs that are required to be taken into consideration in developing effective policies around SDG8; understand the trend (evolution and current state) of the sustainability profession in Nigeria and the contribution of the profession to the sustainability agenda, and get a comprehensive understanding of the skills and competencies required as a sustainability professional and the role of sustainability professionals in enhancing SDG8.

The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN) is a non-profit organisation established in August 2019 to redefine and improve the practice and profession of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Nigeria.

To register and participate, please click https://bit.ly/aspnwebinar or visit our website https://aspn.org.ng/ for additional information.

Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN).
Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN).

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Sustainability Professionals Set To Host Seminar On Implementing SDG8 In Nigeria

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Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN).

…Theme; Implementing SDG 8 in Nigeria: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN) is set to host a virtual seminar on “Implementing SDG 8 in Nigeria: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?” to understand the role of sustainability in advancing the development of effective policies around SDG 8.

The Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN), a body of sustainability practitioners founded to develop the capacity of members and support Nigerian businesses towards actualising sustainable business growth while driving Nigeria’s sustainable development.

The virtual seminar will hold on Monday, November 29, 2021, from 10:00, am -12:00 noon. Participation at the seminar is free and will be drawn from the public, private, and development sectors.

To participate in the webinar, register via the link https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAsfu6qpjgrG9NhxW5i8eIqCmhOrFeaSgzM is required.

Unemployment and under-employment are major challenges faced by many developing countries such as Nigeria. As of the last quarter of 2020, the data from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics put unemployment and youth unemployment rates at 33.3% and 53.4% respectively. Some direct outcomes of these two conditions are poor economic growth and poverty. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8is the global ambition set to address inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. The goal identifies that not only should jobs be created but they should be decent and capable of lifting people out of poverty.

Over the years, organisations have played a critical role in addressing issues related to SDG 8 such as employment, economic inclusion, non-discrimination, capacity building, availability of a skilled workforce, elimination of forced or compulsory labour. Organisations have created job opportunities, offered apprenticeship opportunities, mentored young entrepreneurs, initiated skills development programmes, put in place mechanisms to identify child and forced labour throughout its supply chains, and developed policy against unfair hiring and recruitment practices, amongst many interventions. There is no doubt that sustainability professionals have been at the centre of developing and implementing these interventions for organisations,

Therefore, sustainability professionals have been and will continue to be crucial in the achievement of the SDGs, and it is on this backdrop that the Association of Sustainability Professionals (ASPN) has decided to organise a seminar on Implementing SDG 8 in Nigeria: What Role Should the Sustainability Profession Play?

This high-level stakeholder engagement programme aims to unravel the issues and challenges faced by the sustainability profession and its professionals in the implementation of the SDGs within the context of SDG 8 in Nigeria. This is in direct alignment with the objective of ASPN to support and enhance the development of the sustainability profession and advance sustainable development in Nigeria. The workshop will also provide a compelling examination of the state of the profession in Nigeria. This will include, how the profession has contributed to the sustainability evolution both in the fiscal policy, regulatory and private sector spaces; the capabilities and competencies required by sustainability professionals for the growth of the profession; and the solutions that will transform the profession to have a broader sustainable socio-economic development role in the holistic implementation of the SDGs and within the context of SDG 8.

Sustainability Professionals To Host Seminar On Implementing SDG8 In Nigeria    https://rotamedianews.com/sustainability-professionals-to-host-seminar-on-implementing-sdg8-in-nigeria/
Association of Sustainability Professionals of Nigeria (ASPN).

Speakers at the seminar will comprise of leading voices in the sustainability space such as Ismail Omamegbe, Director, Advocacy & Stakeholder Relations Directorate, ASPN; Professor Chris Ogbechie, Dean, Lagos Business School; Professor Kenneth Amaechi, Chair, Business, and Sustainable Development, University of Edinburgh; Rukaiya el-Rufai, Partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC West Africa; AmarakoonBandara, Ph.D., Senior Economic Adviser, UNDP; Soromidayo George, Director, Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Business, Unilever, West Africa; Dr. Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, Co-Chair, Private Sector Advisory Group on SDGs, Nigeria; Eunice Sampson, Director, Learning and Development Directorate, ASPN.

Participants at the seminar stand to benefit from the opportunity to identify ways of strengthening and developing the sustainability profession in Nigeria; contribute to an innovative transition that will have a significant impact in Nigeria by helping devise strategies for sustainable socio-economic development, inclusive growth, and decent work; be part of and network with a community of practice to shape, drive and support the sustainability agenda across different sectors

Additionally, the seminar participants will also be able to understand the challenges associated with Nigeria’s SDGs implementation journey, the fundamental linkage between SDG8 and other SDGs that are required to be taken into consideration in developing effective policies around SDG8, and understand the trend (evolution and current state) of the sustainability profession in Nigeria and the contribution of the profession to the sustainability agenda amongst others.

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