Finance Bill: Nigerian govt seeks to make Amazon, others VAT collectors

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said the proposed amendment to the Finance Act will ensure that Amazon and other digital companies become Value Added Tax collectors for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Ms Ahmed said the bill, which emanated from the executive arm of government, if passed by the lawmakers and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, will reduce ambiguity and restrict VAT obligations to digital non-resident companies.

The minister spoke in Abuja on Monday at the public hearing into the bill.

The hearing was organised by the House of Representatives Committee Finance.

President Buhari had transmitted the bill to the two chambers of the National Assembly last week Tuesday.

The bill seeks to amend the Capital Gains Tax Act, Company Income Tax, FIRS Establishment Act, Personal Income Tax, Stamp Duties Act and Tertiary Education Act, Value Added Tax, Insurance Police Trust Fund and the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The bill is proposing an amendment to section 10 of the VAT, by introducing a new section 10, putting the burden of VAT on non-resident digital companies, rather than non-resident individuals.

Explaining the implication of the proposed amendment, she said “for example, what is proposed here is that Amazon can now register as VAT collection agent for the FIRS, by adding VAT to their transaction and remit to the FIRS.”

She added further that the bill seeks to “restrict VAT obligation to Digital Non-Resident Companies (who supply individuals who cannot self-account for VAT).

“FIRS may appoint persons for purpose of collection of tax including non-residents. Such appointed persons collect and remit taxes collected,” she said.

On taxation of e-commerce businesses, Ms Ahmed said the bill seeks to introduce a turnover tax on fair percentage of profits earned from providing digital services to Nigerian customers. Such digital services include app, high-frequency trading and electronic data storage.

Also, the bill seeks to amend the FIRS establishment act to protect the data of taxpayers. “Every person in an official duty or being employed by the administration of this act or otherwise, that has access to taxpayer information shall regard and deal with such information as secret and confidential.”

The minister also hinted that some of the reforms may come with additional taxes and that past fiscal measures have yielded some results.

While declaring the hearing open, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader, said the bill will block wastages and loopholes in the system.

He added that the House will focus on scrutinising all loan requests by the executive.

“We must strengthen the institution to strategically check reckless borrowings by ensuring accountability in the use of borrowed funds and ensuring that the borrowings shall be on concessional terms or at relatively low-interest rates and subject to the rigours of legislations,” he said.

The federal government on the 4 June announced the indefinite suspension of the microblogging site, Twitter, following the pulling down of a tweet by Mr Buhari.

During the Independent Day broadcast on 1 October, Mr Buhari announced the conditions for lifting the ban on Twitter.

The conditions, the president said were “National Security and Cohesion Registration, Physical presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution; and Local Content.” (Premium Times)


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