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Tax: Tribunal orders Multichoice to pay 50% backlog

Pay TV firm faults report

Following the conflict between the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and pay television service provider, Multichoice Nigeria Limited over tax evasion, the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) sitting in Lagos was on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 reported to have ordered the latter, owners of popular cable television services, DSTV, to pay 50 per cent of N1.8 trillion, which the FIRS has determined through a forensic audit to be the amount in taxes that Multichoice Nigeria Limited had failed to pay to the Government of Nigeria in past assessment years.

Following the report, Multichoice, however, issued a statement saying that the directive issued by the tribunal did not compel MultiChoice Nigeria to make payment of 50 per cent of N1,8 trillion, being half of the disputed tax assessment, which is under appeal. The five-member tribunal led by its Chairman, Professor A.B. Ahmed, was said to have issued the order following an application to it by the counsel to FIRS.

In a statement, the FIRS counsel made the application under Order XI of the TAT Procedure Rules 2010, which enables a party to make an application at any stage of the proceedings. According to the statement, Counsel for FIRS drew the attention of the Tribunal to Paragraph 15(7) of the Fifth Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act 2007 and urge the Tribunal to direct Multichoice Nigeria Limited to deposit with the FIRS 50 percent of the amount of the Assessment under Appeal as security and a condition that must be fulfilled before the prosecution of the Appeal brought before TAT.

“In certain defined circumstances to which the Multichoice appeal fits, Paragraph 15(7) of the Fifth Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act 2007 (FIRS Act) requires persons or companies seeking to contest a tax assessment to pay all or a stipulated percentage of the tax assessed before they can be allowed to argue their appeal contesting the assessment at TAT.

“Multichoice Nigeria Limited filed the matter at the Lagos TAT following its dispute over FIRS’ issuance of Notices of Assessment and Demand Note in the sum of N1, 822, 923,909,313.94k on 7 April 2021. The amount constitutes what the FIRS calculated as due in taxation to the Federal Government of Nigeria from Multichoice after an investigation over several months to determine the extent to which Multichoice has been evading taxes in Nigeria.

“At Tuesday’s hearing of the matter in Appeal No: TAT/LZ/ CIT/062/2021 19/08/2021 (Multichoice Nigeria Limited v. Federal Inland Revenue Service), Multichoice Nigeria Limited amended its Notice of Appeal and thereafter sought through its counsel, Bidemi Olumide of AO2 Law Firm for an adjournment of the proceedings to enable it to respond to the FIRS’ formal application for accelerated hearing of the Appeal and prayer before the TAT directing Multichoice to produce before the Tribunal the integrated Annual report and Management Account Statements of Multichoice Group Ltd for Tax Years 2012 to 2020., among other prayers.

“In response, however, the FIRS Counsel asked TAT to issue an order requiring that Multichoice makes the statutory deposit of 50% of the disputed sum. “After hearing arguments from both sides, TAT upheld the FIRS submission and directed Multichoice Nigeria Limited to deposit with the FIRS an amount equals 50 percent of the Assessment under the Appeal plus a sum equal to 10% of the said deposit as a condition precedent for further Hearing of the Appeal. Thereafter, TAT adjourned the Appeal to 23 September 2021 for report of compliance with its Order and continuation of the hearing, subject to compliance with the Tribunal’s order.

Meanwhile, while disputing the report, Multichoice said the directive “issued by the TAT in accordance with paragraph 15(7) of the Fifth Schedule to the FIRS Establishment Act required MultiChoice Nigeria to deposit with FIRS an amount equal to the tax paid by Multi- Choice Nigeria in the preceding year of assessment OR one half of the disputed tax assessment under appeal, whichever is the lesser amount plus 10 per cent. The lesser amount is the tax paid by MultiChoice Nigeria in the previous assessed year which is substantially less than the disputed assessment. “MultiChoice Nigeria is a law-abiding corporate citizen and continues to engage constructively with FIRS in an attempt to resolve this matter.”

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