March 25, 2020
On 23 March 2020, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (“FIRS” or “the Service”), sent out a notice informing taxpayers that the FIRS has extended the timeline for filing Value Added Tax (VAT) and Withholding Tax (WHT) returns to the last working day of the month, following the month of deduction. The due date for filing Companies Income Tax (CIT) returns has also been extended by one month. This information was communicated via a four-page publication on the FIRS’ official twitter handle as part of its business continuity plan in the light of the prevailing COVID-19 (Corona Virus) global pandemic.
The Notice is in line with efforts being made by the Federal Government to minimise and manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting various countries including Nigeria. In this regard, the Notice informs taxpayers of measures undertaken by the FIRS to support them during this period.
The Notice encourages taxpayers to take advantage of the various e-platforms for filing of tax returns and also states that where there is a need for physical meetings this will be limited to no more than ten people at a time while applying globally recommended social distancing and hygiene rules.
It also highlights the following specific palliative measures undertaken by the FIRS to help taxpayers cushion the effect of the pandemic:
Based on this publication, taxpayers now have up to the last working day of each month to submit their VAT and WHT returns. Although the Notice does not state a commencement date for this, it can be safely assumed that this directive takes effect from March, 2020 and will continue until the FIRS issues a further advisory or Notice in this regard. In order to ensure certainty as to the application of these palliatives and prevent disputes in future, it is advised that the FIRS documents this directive either by way of an Order or Gazette, especially in view of the fact that FIRS Circulars have previously been held not to be binding or have force of law. Since this directive essentially adjusts statutory filing dates, it is necessary to have a basis in law for the palliatives.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, taxpayers are at a liberty to take advantage of the extensions given the likely disruption to their businesses and their ability to comply with filing deadlines within this period. More importantly, taxpayers should take advantage of all available electronic platforms in engaging with the tax authorities and seek professional advice in doing so. Above all, we should all stay safe until when the pandemic abates and we can all return to our normal routines.