Nigeria is being careful with its approach in its quest to tax the digital economy. Rather than enacting a stand-alone digital service tax law, Nigeria is amending key parts of its corporate income tax law to accommodate effects of the digital economy. These amendments, particularly the latest amendment on turnover assessment, are not substantially different from an average digital service tax. Both taxes are levied on turnover of digital platforms. The 6% tax rate on turnover is likely to be a major concern for non-resident companies as it is much higher than the digital service taxes in other jurisdictions. France and UK impose 3% and 2% digital service tax respectively; while Kenya, a comparable developing country in the same region, has 1.5% digital service tax. Canada is in advanced stage of launching its 3% digital service tax on all in-country revenues earned on digital activities.
Companies Income Tax Act
In January 2020 when I first read Nigeria’s Finance Act 2019, one of the instinctive questions that came to me was “is Nigeria serious about taxing digital trade now”? There were a few reasons for this skepticism. First, the Act seeks to tax nonresident companies (NRCs) that have a “significant economic presence” (SEP) in Nigeria but then delegates the definition of that pivotal phrase. Second, I questioned how Nigeria can enforce/administer this unilateral tax, which is payable by companies outside its borders. Third, I imagined that Nigeria’s unilateral attempt to tax digital trade could undermine relations with a strategic economic, and political partner, the US. Nigeria has now crossed the first hurdle of defining SEP – no doubt, a meaningful step forward – yet, there remains much to process before Africa’s biggest economy can begin to milk the digital cow.
the responsibility to build a nation rests upon its policy-makers, lawyers and accountants. It is a collective one. The next step is to bring all stakeholders to the round-table and contribute to the global tax system from a protectionist standpoint. The lure of subscribing to the global fiscal commons must be tempered with the need to protect the tax bases and revenue of the fiscal sovereign. The time to act is now and right.