The Federal Government plans to tax foreign digital service providers offering services to Nigerians and earning revenue in Naira. Some of these service providers which are video streaming sites, social media platforms, and companies that offer downloads of digital contents are expected to pay digital tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had issued the Companies Income Tax (Significant Economic Presence) Order, 2020 as an amendment of the Finance Act 2019. The order aimed to impose tax on a foreign entity with respect to certain services or digital transactions if it had a significant economic presence in Nigeria. It further stated that the finance minister may by order, determine what constituted SEP in Nigeria.
Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, among others are some of these foreign companies that offer digital video and advertising services to Nigerians. Others like Alibaba and Amazon generate revenue from Nigeria by processing and transmitting data collected about users in Nigeria, provision of goods or services directly or through a digital platform or offer intermediate services that link suppliers and customers in Nigeria.
The new regulation would apply to companies with income of N25m or equivalent in other currencies from Nigeria in a year and those with a Nigerian domain name (.ng) or a website address in the country. The SEP order mandated foreign companies with sustained interactions with persons in Nigeria and customising their digital platforms to target persons in Nigeria by stating the prices of its products or services in Naira to pay taxes.
According to the Act, a foreign entity providing technical services such as training, advertising, supply of personnel, professional, management or consultancy services shall have a SEP in Nigeria in any accounting year if it earns any income or receives any payment from a person resident in Nigeria or a fixed base or agent of a foreign entity in Nigeria. However, payments made to employees of a foreign entity or for teaching in an educational institution are exempted.
Analysts at PricewaterhouseCoopers said some of the affected foreign digital companies would be required to register for income taxes in Nigeria and file annual tax returns even if they did not have a physical presence in Nigeria. They added that Nigerian resident businesses (as well as the fixed bases of non-resident companies) that have transactions with the affected non-resident companies would also be required to account for withholding tax on some of the payments made to these foreign companies.
PwC raised concerns as to how the FIRS would enforce compliance without international consensus, as a number of the companies affected might be outside the territorial reach of the agency. According to the consulting firm, the problem will also be exacerbated where the companies sell their products and services directly to individual consumers in Nigeria.