The Lagos Zone Tax Appeal Tribunal has ordered MTN Nigeria Communications to pay a staggering $72,551,059 million in tax default to the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) for the years 2007 to 2017.
The tribunal, led by Prof. A. B. Hamed, delivered the judgment on October 20, 2023. MTN had previously been dissatisfied with the FIRS’ assessment and had filed an appeal with the Tax Appeal Tribunal.
The panel, including P. A. Olayemi, Babatunde Sobamowo, Samuel N. Ohwerhoye, and Terzungwe Gbakighir, ruled that while MTN was exempt from paying $21,039,807 million in penalties and interest, they must still pay the substantial tax debt.
The case revolves around an investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (OAGF) into MTN’s Forms A and M transactions from 2007 to 2017. The revised report from the OAGF in August 2018 adjusted the alleged outstanding amount to N242.2 billion for import duty and VAT.
After further meetings and discussions between MTN, their tax consultant KPMG Advisory Services, and the FIRS, the tax dispute escalated.
In July 2021, the FIRS issued a VAT assessment of $93,590,366 million to MTN, resulting in the subsequent appeal and revised assessment.
The Tax Appeal Tribunal examined five key issues, including the taxation of software licensing and upgrades, the provision/lease of bandwidth capacities by a non-resident entity, the authority of the FIRS to conduct investigations beyond the five-year restriction, the liability of offshore training for VAT, and the calculation of interest and penalties.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the tribunal ruled in favor of the FIRS on issues one to four. However, they sided with MTN on the fifth issue, concluding that the interest and penalty imposed by the FIRS on the alleged non-remittance of VAT liabilities should be set aside.
The verdict of the tribunal states, “In the final analysis, it is the decision of this Honourable Tribunal that issues One to Four discussed above are all resolved in favour of the Respondent and the appellant is therefore ordered to settle the assessed liabilities accordingly.
“However, issue five in relation to penalty and interest is resolved in favour of the Appellant and is therefore set aside by this Honourable Tribunal. This is our judgement,” the judgment ruled.