Federal government has announced that the five per cent excise duty on telephone calls and short message service (sms) must be remitted by telecommunication firms by 21st day of every month.
The telecom operators will collect the new tax which implementation will begin any moment from now according to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
With the resolve of the government to implement the new tax, telecommunication tariff is expected to go up in response to the new policy.
Federal government had fixed a five per cent excise duty tax on all voice calls, SMS and data services, in addition to the existing 7.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT), paid for goods and services across all sectors of the economy.
Ahmed, represented by the Assistant Director, Tax Policy, in the Ministry, Musa Umar, spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting, organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Abuja on Thursday.
“The five percent excise duty has been in the Finance Act 2020, but has never been implemented”, stated Umar on behalf of Ahmed.
Concerning the five percent hike, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami had disclosed that there was a circular stating the planned hike which was addressed to his ministry and other relevant ministries and agencies of government.
The circular Referenced No. F. 17417/VI/286 dated 1st March 2022, and titled “Approval for Implementation of the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures and Tariff Amendments” was addressed to different Ministers, including Honourable Minister, Communications and Digital Economy and other heads of government agencies.
The circular was also addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Attorney-General of The Federation, Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Mines and Steel and Development; among others.
The circular signed by Mrs. Ahmed reads: “A grace of ninety (90) days commencing from the date of implementation of this circular i.e April 1, 2022, shall be granted to all importers who had opened Form M and must have entered into irrevocable trade agreement before the coming into effect of this circular to process and clear these goods at the prevailing duty rates.
“However new import transaction entered from the 1st of April 2022 will be subjected to the new import duty regime,” she said.
Recall that the Finance Act, 2020 introduced ‘Telecommunication Services’ provided in Nigeria to be liable to excise duty under Section 21 (2) of the Customs and excise tariff etc. (Consolidation) Act, CAP. C49, LFN 2004.
A statement by the Minister’s Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi noted that this development, “therefore, means that all stakeholders have by that singular provision been aware of the Act”.
He said, “The excise duty on telecommunication services provided in Nigeria introduced through the Finance Act, 2020 with statutory enactment on 1st January, 2021 is yet to be implemented till date.
“This is considering the need to ensure reasonable transition period before the implementation of the new tax, as well as providing clarity to all stakeholders on implementation modalities.
“As a matter of emphasis, Mrs. Ahmed had vide Circular dated 1st March, 2022 informed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other heads of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including the Federal Ministry of Communication & Digital Economy about Mr. President’s approval of the implementation of the five percent excise duty on telecommunication services with effect from 1st June, 2022.
“The circular provided a 90-day moratorium with effect from 1st March, 2022 before the implementation of the excise tax. Currently, the excise tax is yet to be implemented.
“An issue as serious as the excise tariff cannot be taken single handedly, as all stakeholders and agencies have been involved including Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Association of Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), who wrote to the Ministry to be involved in the modalities for implementation of the excise duty.
Reecall that recently, Prof. Pantami rejected the planned implementation of five percent excise duty in the Nigerian telecoms sector.
He expressed his disapproval for the policy at a telecom forum in Lagos, organised by the Nigeria Office for Developing the Indigenous Telecoms Sector (NODITS), an agency domiciled in the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC).
He said that he would explore every legitimate means to stop the planned five percent excise duty tax on telecom consumers, faulting the timing and process of imposing the tax on the telecom industry, insisting that part of the responsibility of a responsive government was not to increase the challenges citizens were facing.
“I have not been contacted officially. If we are, we surely will state our case. The sector that contributes to the economy should be encouraged. You introduce excise duty to discourage luxury goods like alcohol, but broadband in the telecom sector is a necessity,” he said further.
Continuing, the Finance Minister’s Spokesman said, “view of the above position of Prof. Pantami, there could be the question whether he was absented in the whole processes that resulted in the Finance Act, which is a product of both the National Assembly and Federal Executive Council (FEC).
“Suffice this to say that before the Act, the Finance Bill would have been through the FEC of which Prof. Pantami is a member and the National Assembly. In other words, he was involved in the making of the Finance Act which spells the said excise tariff hike policy.
“Therefore, he could not obviously have had a point in his dissenting views even as the National Assembly could not have contradicted itself on this matter, because the parliament had passed the Finance Bill before President Muhammadu Buhari signed it into law.
“Although Nigeria is celebrated as the largest economy in Africa, translating this wealth into revenues remains a challenge. Considering this in line with the provision of the revised National Tax Policy which provides the framework for a sustainable tax system that would ensure reliable sources of revenue to government and support economic development.
“Subsequently, in line with the Finance Act, the federal government introduced “Telecommunication Services” provided in Nigeria to be liable to excise duty under Section 21 (2) of the Customs and Excise Tariff etc. (Consolidation) Act, CAP. C49, LFN 2004.
“Nigeria is one of the largest telecommunication markets in Africa. Available report from the NCC shows four categories of operators, i.e. mobile (GSM), fixed telephony operators (fixed/ fixed wireless), internet service providers (ISPS) and others (operators other than mobile & fixed telephony, ISPs).
“Subscriber number continues to grow substantially, having increased from about 180 million subscribers in 2019 to over 200 million active subscriptions in 2020. This represents an increase of over nearly 11 percent in total subscriptions. Moreover, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Burundi currently impose excise duty on telecommunication services ranging between five percent to 20 percent”.