Thursday, 03 December 2020 04:50

Finance Bill: Senate Mulls Taxing Cable DSTV Premium Bouquet

Senate Committee on Finance, Customs and Public Procurement has been mandated by the Senate to consider among others the taxation of the premium bouquet of PayTv, diversification of economy among other and report back in one week.

The resolution of the Senate followed consideration of the Finance Bill for a second reading by senators who canvassed various positions on how to fetch more revenue for the 2021 budget.

Senators argued that oil revenue dims and are not likely to rebound in the next few months, the only option left is to tax the system but this they maintained must not be oppressive.

Earlier in the debate, the premium bouquet of the Paytv, Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) was considered a luxury item to be harvested into the tax net as the Federal Government seeks to expand revenue sources to fund the 2021 budget.

This came to the fore on Wednesday at plenary when Senator Yusuf Yusuf Taraba Central (PDP) told the Senate that a great part of foreign reserve is lost in luxury items and services rendered in Nigeria.

He cited digital Paytv services offered by DSTV to fall into this category.

He said the Premium bouquet which cost between N16,000 and N18,000 should be taxed especially as over one million Nigerians use this bouquet.

Yusuf said the Bill should serve as a tax reform that should protect local industries to grow the economy as he recommended a 5 per cent support in this direction.

He said this has become imperative as Nigerian poor have been subsidizing the rich whereas in other danger climes, it is the rich that subsidizes the poor.

According to Senator Yusuf:  “In this country I dare say that the poor is subsidizing the rich because , the rich are always in a position to protect their interest by ensuring that the tax they pay is actually not commensurate with the revenue that they have.

“As I look around sir, 80 to 90 per cent of what we wear is foreign and that has been draining the meagre foreign exchange that we have. So this tax reform bill, I want to see it to discourage our own interests in foreign goods textiles and services that we earn.

“Therefore it is absolutely necessary that we should use them as example, sir. We have so many luxury items, for example, is the DSTV. For me it is a luxury item, they are nearly over one million subscribers and many of them are subscribing between the rates of  N15,000 and N18,000 monthly.

“That is one area that we need to look into to tax those high brackets of subscribers. Also, this tax reform bill by looking at all those areas will be kind of a way of using the tax reforms to diversify our economy.

“We have been trying to do this since 1979 but we have not gotten it right because the rich are protecting themselves to the extent that they do not want diversification of this economy, so we must use the tax reform bill to diversify our economy otherwise as we continue to rely on crude oil we will continue until we get stickers and we can’t get out,” Yusuf stated

Earlier in his submission, Senator Abdullahi Aliero Kebbi South called on the federal government to review its import duty rate to a rather friendlier rate so as not to push importers to the old practice of berthing their goods at neighbouring ports for onward transportation into the country.

He said high duty rate leads the nation to lose the revenue derivable from the imports, thus the Customs service should act accordingly.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in his consideration of the bill pointed out that care is taken to avoid oppressive taxation on Nigerians.

He asked the Senate to find out the depository account of stamp duty on every transaction with the bank.

Ekweremadu said the Senate should not hurry on the bill especially as it would outlive the 2021 budget, therefore, it should hasten to pass the bill but subject but to public scrutiny.

The executive bill seeks to amend the Capital Gains Tax Act; Companies Income Tax Act; Personal Income Tax Act; Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment) Act; Customs and Excise Tariff, etc (Consolidated) Act.

It also seeks to rework the Value Added Tax; Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act; Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act; Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act; Fiscal Responsibility Act; Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020; and Public Procurement Act.

These being sought are in order to make further provisions in connection with Federal Government Financial Management; Public Revenue and other relevant matters.

The Senate leader who sponsored the bill said Amend certain aspects of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, to align this Act with the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as well as to enhance fiscal efficiencies by controlling the cost-to-revenue ratios of key State and Government Owned Enterprises; and

Amend the Public Procurement Act, to implement key procurement reforms previously proposed by the National Assembly, in 2019, to extend the scope of the Act to the Federal Judiciary and Legislature, accelerate procurement processes, increase mobilization fee thresholds and provide for essential procurement reforms.

As such, the 2021 Appropriation Bill is based on the provisions of this Bill. The additional revenues will be used to fund health, education and infrastructure.

A critical component of the bill is that of the Value address Tax which had proposed changes that may have informed the caution by some Senators Ike Ekweremadu and Aliero.

“Section 4 of the VAT Act has been amended by increasing the value-added tax payable by consumers from 5% to 7.5%. Section 19 increased the penalty payable by a taxable person for non-remittance within the specified period from 5% to 10%.

“Under section 28, the penalty for failure to give notice of change of address or permanent cessation of business was increased from N 5000 to N 50, 000 in the first month and N25000 in subsequent months.

“There is a new section 8 of the VAT Act to cater for the registration of a taxable person upon commencement of business. The penalty for failure to register has been increased from N10, 000 to N50, 000 in the first month and from N 5, 000 to N 25, 000 in the subsequent months. However, the time within which a taxable person is required to register with the service is not specified under the new law as the law simply hinged the time “upon commencement of business.” This is somehow ambiguous and may be subject for court’s interpretation.

“The new section 15 of VAT introduces a threshold for VAT compliance. Thus companies with turnover of N25, 000, 000. 00 or more shall render their tax on or before the 2lst of every month.

“Mr President, my highly respected colleagues, It is absolutely essential to intensify the revenue generation efforts of, this Administration and its commitment to ensuring that the inconvenience associated With any fiscal policy adjustments, is moderated, such that the poor and the vulnerable, who are most at risk, do not bear the brunt of these reforms,” Senator Yahaya stated.

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