The history of value added tax in Nigeria (VAT)can be traced to as far back as 1993 when it was introduced by the Federal Military Government.
Right before then the history of taxation in Nigeria had it that Sales tax was just administered by state and this left a next to nothing contribution to the revenue of the government. You will observe that for a lot of countries, the idea of starting a VAT system of tax is borne out of the dissatisfaction with existing system of taxation.
In 1991, the Federal Government decided to set up a study group to look into the possibility of replacing Sales tax. Sales tax was actually operated in Nigeria under Decree No. 7 of 1986.
It was then argued that the narrow base of Sales tax completely negated the fundamental principle of what Sales tax stands for, CONSUMPTION TAX, and since Sales tax was not broad enough to cover the expanding consumption industry in the country, there was a need for an immediate review and replacement for the Sales tax.
After a lot of back and forth during the feasibility studies, and further discussions and meetings, 24th of August 1993 birthed the value added tax in Nigeria with Value Added Tax Act 1993, No. 102, 1993 by the Value Added Tax Decree.
It is noteworthy to state that the introduction of value added tax in Nigeria has contributed exceedingly to the government revenue. This is to tell you that the purpose of the introduction of Value added tax in Nigeria was achieved and is still achieving anyway.
Originally, the VAT act consisted of 42 sections and 3 schedules, and over the years there was continuous amendment in 1996, and the amendments of the VAT Act led to a consolidation into Value Added Tax Act V-1, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004. VAT Act was just in recent times amended by the value Added tax (Amendments) Act 2007.
Now the VAT Act consists of 47 sections, with a schedule that contains goods and services that are exempt from VAT. There has been a lot issues about the ambiguity and clarity of the VAT Act which further led to the Federal government through the Federal Inland Revenue Service publishing information circular to further provide clarifications on certain provisions of the VAT Act.
The sufficiency of the various circulars as it isn’t a binding legal document is still a subject of debate between all stakeholders; government, tax payers and tax consultants till date.
Value Added Tax definition
First thing you need to know is that VAT is not levied directly on your profits, as the case of some other forms of taxation, this is to say that it isn’t a direct form of taxation. As the name implied, it is a tax on the value added to goods and services. Hey, seem a bit confusing? I will break it down, yet!
Now you have consumed a good or service, by consumption, it means you have made use of the said goods and services right? Then there was a process in the provision/ production of the goods and services.
In the whole of these stages, value must have been added really, therefore VAT is charged on the amount of value to the goods and services thus provided, and this is the reason why you see a lot of organization that has been classified as taxable levy VAT on their invoices.
The definition of value added on VAT was quite correct except for the fact that it failed to bring out the important features of the tax, incomplete definition.
Is this clear a little bit to you? Let us dig a little further:
As stated in the VAT Act
VAT is imposed on all goods and services other than those listed in the first schedule of the Act.
This can further be explained as the tax payable on the goods and services ‘consumed’ by any ‘person’. Consumed means used up in this context and ‘any person’ means whether you are as an individual, business, government.
Other than those listed in first schedule of the Act. What does this mean?
At the commencement of VAT and based on the original design, there were only 17 chargeable goods and 24 chargeable services in the Act. However following the various amendments and the subsequent increase in the tax base, the new design brought into scope all goods and services apart from those that have been listed in the Act specifically as exempt or zero rated.
It means that there certain goods and services that are not chargeable and subject to VAT, or goods and services that are chargeable but the rate of VAT is zero. In as much as the VAT Act is bringing ‘all’ goods and services into the tax net, not all the goods and services are taxable anyway.
I will therefore define VAT as a fixed charge on the supply of chargeable goods and services which is borne ultimately by the final user of the proposed goods and services but collected at each stage of production and distribution of that particular goods and services.
This definition for me brings out the fact that VAT is a CONSUMPTION tax, which is to tell you that the liability of the eventual payment of VAT falls on the final consumer, right?
The standard fixed VAT rate is 5% unless for the goods and services classified as exempt or zero rated in the VAT Act
VAT being charged at the various stages; consumption – distribution – final payment makes it a Multi Stage tax.
The Multi Stage might further be a little confusing to you, I will explain that under the features of a VAT system
FEATURES of a VAT system
As mentioned earlier, VAT is a Multi-Stage tax which is imposed from the production of a good right to the distribution of the said good.
Let’s explain further, Vat is levied on every stage of the production process right from when there is the purchase of raw materials, there tax is imposed on the purchase which is otherwise known as INPUT TAX which will deducted from the VAT charge on the sale of the goods (OUTPUT TAX). You know at the stages of production of the goods, value must have been added to the goods which could be as a result of further production costs, the analysis of the contribution and some other feature of value to lead to a suitable determining sale price of the product.
The mechanism works in such a way that the deduction of the input tax from the output tax leaves the final burden to the consumer of the goods. In a case where the output Vat is higher than the input VAT, there is a VAT liability, whereby the excess net VAT is then remitted to the government.
Although the VAT is a multi stage tax, the effect on the final consumer is simple and single and does not in anyway add to the tax burden to be borne, since the VAT rate is fixed at 5%.
Tax invoice and VAT
There is no difference really from a normal sales/ purchase invoice to that of a tax invoice unless there are more information of the tax details of the tax payer on the invoice so produced.
In this tax invoice, it is expected to have information such as the tax identification number of the tax payer, VAT registration number and the tax rate included in the total payment to be received or paid. The VAT Act states it explicitly that every taxable person should include the VAT in every taxable transaction that his/her business carries out.
As an SME that does a VATABLE business, it is therefore important to charge VAT on every single VATABLE transaction carried out by your business. There is always a penalty for failure and negligence.
Ignorance is not enough an excuse!
Other information contained in the Tax Invoice includes:
The name, address of the tax payer
Customer’s name and address
Type of supply
A short description of the goods and services supplied
Cash discount offered
Total amount of tax paid
The size of goods provided
The scope of services offered
Goods that VAT is charged on
VAT is charged on goods and services produced in Nigeria except for those that have been specifically exempted in the Act.
VAT is also charged on certain Vatable imported goods in Nigeria regardless of whether the goods has attracted the necessary import duties or whether or not the person importing the goods is registered for VAT in Nigeria.
VAT is also charged on the supply of services received from outside Nigeria provided the services are supplied to a Nigerian customer in Nigeria.
Exported goods are zero rated based on the VAT Act, which means there is no output VAT charged to a foreign buyer while all input TAX paid are recovered since there is no output VAT to net the input tax off.
Section 3 of the Value added tax in Nigeria Act has therefore exempted certain goods and services from VAT. This was further divided into two parts :
All medical and pharmaceutical products, Basic food items, Books and educational material, baby products, locally produced fertilizers, plant and machinery imported to be used in the export processing zone, plant, machinery and equipment purchased for gas utilization in the downstream petroleum operations, agricultural equipments purchased for agricultural purposes.
Services rendered by community banks, people’s banks and mortgage institutions, plays and performances conducted by educational institutions as part of learning and all exported services.
A lot of argument has arisen in recent times as to the extent and scope of what is applicable to which under the exempt goods and services.
As you can see here, the Act was not clear on what it means as basic food items. What s basic to me may not be basic to you! It is still hoped that the tax authorities will provide further clarifications in order to remove all ambiguities in Value added tax in Nigeria.
A taxable person is required to register for tax within six months of commencement of business, or within six months of commencement of the Act, whichever is earlier.
Without prejudice to the above statement of registration, the taxable person who refuses to register within the specified period will be liable to the payment of a liability N10,000 in the first of month of failure to register, and N5,000 in subsequent month of failure to register.
For non-resident companies carrying on business in Nigeria, the Value added tax in Nigeria act also imposes registration on them. They have been mandated to register using the address of the person with whom it has an existing contract.
The law also mandates all government ministries, statutory bodies and other agencies of the Federal State and Local government are also expected to register as agents of the board for the purpose of collecting tax.
Upon registration for Value added tax in Nigeria, it is also expected that proper records of VATable transactions are kept for easy audit and reconciliation.
For every ministry,or other bodies of government, Vat due to contractors are deducted and remitted to the nearest tax office. As against the case where Vat is paid as part of total payment due to a contractor.
The basic framework of Value added tax in Nigeria is basically easy to understand . The computation is not just open to lawyers and accountants alone but also SMEs who are required by law to deduct and remit VAT.
Please take note of the following when trying to understand VAT and how it works in Nigeria:
- It is a tax on consumption, which means a tax on spending. The ultimate bearer of the tax is the consumer.
- The rate is at 5% flat
- The 5% VAT is included on all tax invoices of goods and services supplied by a registered person
- SMEs registered for tax are known to be registered persons
- Supplies means any transaction be it sales of goods or the performance of a service for a given consideration whether for money or money’s worth
- Taxable goods and services are the goods and services that is chargeable under the VAT Act and they are not taxable stated as exempt in the First Schedule of the VAT Act
- A person is a person who carries out in any place an activity of economic value as a manufacturer, supplier of goods or services, or any other person using tangible or intangible property with the intent to obtain income by a way of trade or business; and includes any agency of government acting in that capacity.
- Records and accounts of all taxable transactions must be kept properly.
You have heard it all on value added tax in Nigeria. Do you have comments about value added tax in Nigeria that we have not touched? Please feel free to drop them in the comments section below.