Declining Oil Revenue and the Communication Tax Bill

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The Problem Statement

The Nigerian Senate has proposed a Communication Service Tax Bill (2019) as extra revenue for the national budget. This has met widespread criticisms because of the decline in economic growth, tax multiplicity and collection amongst others.

Following the harsh reality of global decline of crude oil price, it has become obvious that Nigeria can no longer rely on oil revenue to sustain the economy. Hence, the need to identify and explore alternative sources of generating revenue.

One area that the FGN is focusing to plug the gap in revenue is taxation; thus the proposed introduction of the Communication Services Tax Bill.

The Policy Solution

The Bill entitled ‘Communication Tax Bill, 2019 (SB.12)’ proposes the introduction of the tax which is meant to replace the 2.2% increase in the Value Added Tax being planned by the Federal government.

The Communication Service Tax Bill provides that the rate of the tax is 9% of the charge for the use of the communication service.

It also state that the tax shall be levied on Electronic Communication Services supplied by Service Providers. These imposed charges are payable by a user of an Electronic Communication Service other than private Electronic Communication Services (Voice Calls; SMS; MMS; Data usage and Internet services).

The bill further places the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as the relevant tax authority responsible for collection and remittance of tax, any interest and penalty paid.

A company that renders chargeable services will file a Communication Service Tax (CST) return on or before the last day of the month following the month of payment. Hence, a taxpayer can request for extension of time to file a CST return which is subject to the fulfillment of specific conditions. Entirely, the FIRS has the discretion to accept or reject an application.

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NIGAC Constructive Position/Take

Oil revenue has been steadily declining over the years due to concerns over the environment and climate change. More and more countries are looking towards green energy and reducing their dependency on petroleum products.

The Federal Government, because of this, is working towards increasing its revenue from other sources/sectors.

Creating a new type of tax would generate more revenue for the government but to the detriment of telecommunication operators and the masses. The bill will move to a second reading before the appropriate committee takes a legislative action including a public hearing. If the Federal Government still intends to make Nigeria attractive for foreign and local investors, then the lawmakers should consider fiscal policies that are “business-friendly”.

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