An Overview of the Revised Withholding Tax Regulations (2024) in Nigeria

An Overview of the Revised Withholding Tax Regulations (2024) in Nigeria

Introduction

The Federal Government has approved a new, simplified, and business-friendly withholding tax (WHT) regime, marking a significant shift in the Nigeria’s fiscal policy and tax administration.

This new regime aims to address longstanding challenges and create a more conducive environment for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

An Overview of the Revised Withholding Tax Regulations: Background

Withholding tax was introduced into Nigeria’s tax system in 1977 as an advance payment of income tax on specified transactions. The primary objectives were to provide the government with a regular revenue flow and to curb tax evasion.

However, over time, the regime expanded, covering more transactions and resulting in various ambiguities and complications. This expansion exposed many businesses, especially SMEs, to excessive compliance burdens and strained the working capital of low-margin businesses.

Understanding Nigeria’s Tax Treaty with ECOWAS Countries

Challenges of the Previous WHT Regime

1. Ambiguities and Complications:

– The previous WHT regime had unclear regulations regarding who must comply, which transactions were eligible, applicable rates, and the timing of remittance obligations. This lack of clarity led to confusion and significant compliance difficulties for businesses.

2. Separate Tax Perception:

– WHT was often treated as a separate tax, adding to the list of multiple taxes and increasing the overall cost of doing business in Nigeria.

3. Refund Challenges:

– Businesses faced considerable difficulties in obtaining refunds for excess withholding tax, causing significant cash flow issues and administrative burdens.

4. No Exemption Threshold:

– The absence of an exemption threshold made compliance and enforcement uneconomical for both taxpayers and the tax authority, disproportionately affecting smaller businesses.

5. Emerging Issues:

– The regime did not effectively address contemporary and emerging issues, leading to gaps and inconsistencies in its application.

6. Tax Inequity:

– The overall structure of the WHT regime promoted tax inequity, placing a heavier burden on smaller businesses and those with low margins.

Key Changes in the New WHT Regime

In response to these challenges, the new WHT regime introduces several key changes as part of ongoing fiscal policy and tax reforms. These changes aim to simplify the tax system, reduce compliance burdens, and promote a more equitable and business-friendly environment.

1. Exemption for Small Businesses: Small companies, as defined under Section 105 of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), are now exempt from WHT compliance if the supplier has a valid Tax Identification Number (TIN) and the transaction value is N2,000,000 or less within a calendar month.

Case Study:

– Startup Ltd., a small business, contracts a supplier for office equipment worth N1,000,000. Under the new regime, Startup Ltd. is exempt from WHT compliance, easing their administrative burden.

2. Reduced Rates for Low-Margin Businesses: Businesses with low profit margins benefit from reduced WHT rates.

Case Study:

– Retail Ltd., operating on thin margins, previously paid a 10% WHT rate. Under the new regime, the rate is reduced to 5%, alleviating their tax burden.

3. Exemptions for Manufacturers and Producers: Farmers and other producers are exempt from WHT.

Case Study:

– Agro Farms, a farming business, sells produce worth N5,000,000. They are now exempt from WHT, promoting agricultural production.

4. Measures to Curb Evasion and Minimize Tax Avoidance: New measures have been implemented to curb tax evasion and minimize avoidance strategies.

Case Study:

– Service Co. attempts to evade WHT by misclassifying transactions. The new measures detect and prevent such practices, ensuring compliance.

5. Ease of Obtaining Credit and Utilization of Tax Deducted at Source: Improved processes for businesses to obtain credit for tax deducted at source.

Case Study:

– Tech Innovators Ltd can now easily apply the WHT credit against their annual tax liability, improving their cash flow management.

6. Changes to Reflect Emerging Issues and Global Best Practices: The regime now includes provisions for emerging issues and adopts global best practices.

Case Study:

– Digital Solutions Ltd. engages in cross-border services. The updated regime includes clear guidelines for such transactions, aligning with international standards.

7. Clarity on Timing of Deduction and Definition of Key Terms: Clear definitions and timing for WHT deductions have been established to provide more certainty for businesses.

Case Study:

– Construction Ltd.previously struggled with the timing of WHT deductions on progress payments. The new regime provides clarity, ensuring timely and accurate deductions.

8. Specific Exemptions for Certain Transactions: The regulation exempts various transactions from WHT, such as across-the-counter transactions, manufactured goods, imported goods without taxable presence, tax-exempt income, out-of-pocket expenses, insurance premiums, certain fuel supplies, broker commissions, and winnings from entrepreneurship-promoting shows.

Case Studies:

– ABC Ltd. is exempt from WHT on purchases of manufactured office supplies.

– XYZ Enterprises is exempt on over-the-counter raw material purchases.

– Global Imports is exempt on imported electronic gadgets.

– Non-Profit Organization is exempt on grant income.

– Service Provider Ltd. is exempt on travel expenses.

– Business Ltd. is exempt on insurance premiums.

– Fuel Distributor Ltd. is exempt on fuel supplies.

– Real Estate Broker retains commission exempt from WHT.

– Innovator Ltd. is exempt on winnings from an innovation show.

Conclusion

The new WHT Regulation 2024 simplifies the tax system, reduces compliance burdens, and promotes a more business-friendly environment in Nigeria. By addressing previous challenges and incorporating key changes, the new regime fosters equity and efficiency in tax administration.

These reforms benefit both businesses and the government, creating a more conducive environment for economic growth and development.


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