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Illegal Financial Flows: FIRS appoints banks to recover N1.8trn taxes from Multichoice Group – Agwu, C. J

The Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, has frozen the accounts of Multichoice and appointed Banks as agents to recover N1.8 trillion from the company as illegal financial flows emanating from under reporting and non reporting of tax obligations on the part of the multinational.

The directives to the banks is contained in a statement by the executive chairman of FIRS, Muhammad Nami, who claimed that Multichoice group’s performance does not reflect in its tax obligations and compliance level in Nigeria.

“ The level of non-compliance by Multi-Choice Africa (MCA), the parent Company of Multi-Choice Nigeria (MCN) is very alarming. The parent company, which provides services to MCN has never paid Value Added Tax (VAT) since its inception,” Nami said.

“It was discovered that the companies persistently breached all agreements and undertakings with the Service, they would not promptly respond to correspondences, they lack data integrity and are not transparent as they continually deny FIRS access to their records “ .

“Particularly, MCN has avoided giving the FIRS accurate information on the number of its subscribers and income. The companies are involved in the under-remittance of taxes which necessitated a critical review of the tax-compliance level of the company.”

The chairman said that the group’s performance does not reflect in its tax obligations and compliance level in Nigeria.

“The issue with Tax collection in Nigeria, especially from foreign-based Companies conducting businesses in Nigeria and making massive profits is frustrating and infuriating to the (FIRS).

“There is no doubt that broadcasting, telecommunications and the cable-satellite industries have changed the face of communication in Nigeria,” he said. “However, when it comes to tax compliance, some companies are found wanting. They do with impunity in Nigeria what they dare not try in their countries of origin.”

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The statement further confirmed that Nigeria contributes 34% of total revenue for the Multichoice group. The next to Nigeria from intelligence gathering is Kenya with 11%, and Zambia is in 3rd place with 10%. The rest of Africa where they have presence accounts for 45% of the group’s total revenue.

Nami said Information currently at the disposal of FIRS has revealed a tax liability for relevant years of assessment for ₦1,822,923,909,313.94 and $342,531,206 on the part of Multichoice.

“Under FIRS powers in Section 49 of the Companies Income Tax Act Cap C21 LFN 2004 as amended, Section 41 of the Value Added Tax Act Cap V1 LFN 2004 as amended and Section 31 of the FIRS (Establishment) Act No. 13 of 2007, all bankers to MCA & MCN in Nigeria were therefore appointed as Collecting Agents for the full recovery of the aforesaid tax debt,” Nami said.

The action by the FIRS is an attempt to block revenue leakage in the country and also stem the tide of illegal financial flows from the country put at about N6.87 trillion annually by multinationals operating in Nigeria in the year 2015 by the former South African President, Thambo Mbeki’s African Union Committee’s Report on illegal flows from Africa.

The FIRS chairman observed that the issue with tax collection in Nigeria, especially from foreign-based companies conducting businesses in Nigeria and making massive profits is frustrating and infuriating to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

He said companies come to Nigeria just to infringe on tax laws by indulging in tax evasion.

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“Under FIRS powers in Section 49 of the Companies Income Tax Act Cap C21 LFN 2004 as amended, Section 41 of the Value Added Tax Act Cap V1 LFN 2004 as amended and Section 31 of the FIRS (Establishment) Act No. 13 of 2007, all bankers to MCA & MCN in Nigeria were therefore appointed as Collecting Agents for the full recovery of the aforesaid tax debt,” Nami said.

“ In this regard, the affected banks are required to sweep balances in each of the above-mentioned entities’ accounts and pay the same in full or part settlement of the companies’ respective tax debts until FULL recovery. This should be done before the execution of any transaction involving the companies or any of their subsidiaries. It is further requested that the Federal Inland Revenue Service be informed of any transactions before EXECUTION on the account, especially transfers of funds to any of their subsidiaries,” the FIRS Chairman further instructed the banks.

The chairman insisted that Nigeria must put a stop to all tax frauds that have been going on for too long. 

“All companies must be held accountable and made to pay their fair share of relevant taxes including back duty taxes owed especially VAT”.

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