From Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday approved the Finance Bill 2020, to support the 2021 Budget.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who made this known to State House Correspondents after the FEC meeting, said the bill was designed to bring about incremental changes in the nation’s tax laws.
She however assured that the passage of the bill into law would not lead to increase in taxes in the country.
Other ministers who were at the briefing included the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; and the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu.
Explaining features of the bill, Mrs Ahmed said the intent of the bill is to ease tax burdens on some categories of enterprises, especially small and medium enterprises.
She also pointed out that some taxes had already been reduced saying: “In the last Finance Bill 2019, we reduced taxes from 30 per cent to 20 per cent for enterprises that have turnover of between N25million to N100 million.”
Mrs Ahmed assured that the situation in the country does not warrant increase in taxes, saying: “This is not the time to increase taxes. “
The bill will soon be transmitted to the National Assembly for its consideration and passage into law.
“Through this Finance Bill, what we are seeking to do is to make incremental changes to tax laws relating to Customs and Excise as well as other fiscal laws to support the implementation of annual budget. When Mr. President presented the 2021 Budget to the Parliament, he did direct that the 2020 Finance Bill will also follow to support the budget proposals.
“We are working on implementing current fiscal reforms in line with the Multi-year Medium Term Framework and over time we hope that this Finance Bill, that the fiscal space will be reformed on an incremental basis.
“So this Finance Bill for 2020 was developed as a result of a very large multi-stakeholder effort under Fiscal Policy Reform Committee that has several ministries, departments and agencies as members, but also the private sector, experienced tax practitioners and academics.
“A few of the provisions of the 2020 Finance Bill, the broad principle is to consider how we will have adequate macroeconomic strategies to attract investment, to be able to grow the economy on a sustainable basis, but also to create jobs as the immediate fiscal strategies to put in place accelerate domestic revenue mobilization in response to COVID-19 pandemic and the recent decline in the economy.
“In producing this bill, what we were inadvertently doing was amending provisions in 13 different taxes which include the Capital Gains Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act (IIDITRA), Personal Income Tax Act (PITA), Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, Customs & Excise Tariff (Consolidation) Act, Value Added Tax Act (VATA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Public Procurement Act.
“Some highlights of these provisions include: amendments that we have had to make to provide incremental changes to tax laws. These amendments include providing fiscal relief for corporate tax payers, for instance by reducing the applicable minimum tax rate for two consecutive years. So it was from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 percent.
“These reforms will commence and will also be closely followed by the cessation rules for small businesses as well as providing incentive for mass transits by reducing import duties and the levies for large tractors, buses and other motor vehicles. The reason for us is to reduce the cost of transportation which is a major driver of inflation especially food production,” she explained.
The minister further said the bill has also considered the need to create an instrument for crisis intervention fund so that the country could avert the sort of unbudgeted spending that the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) inflicted on the economy.
“We also have proposed measures to create a legal instrument that supports a crisis intervention fund such as, the crisis intervention that we have had to put in place for COVID-19. So we hope that we don’t have other crisis, but we need to create such a fund so that it is available and it is legislated.
“We are also amending the Fiscal Responsibility Act to enhance fiscal efficiencies and also to control the cost revenue ratios of government owned enterprises, so that we will be able to realize more operating surpluses from these enterprises.
“Let me remind you that in the 2019 bill, we actually reduced taxes from 30 per cent to 20 per cent for medium enterprises and from 30 per cent to zero per cent for very small or micro enterprises. These reductions in taxes is being reinforced in the 2020 Finance Bill by further removing the education tax of two percent that the smallest businesses still have to pay despite their zero payment of company income tax.
“There are a lot of provisions in this bill, we will be publishing the summary of the draft bill on our various websites the moment Mr. President conveys the bill to the parliament so that we get inputs from the citizens as the parliament undertake its own review processes, “the minister explained.
Explaining how the bill would see to the reduction of tax burden on categories of Nigerian businesses, the Minister said “in the last Finance Bill 2019,we reduced taxes from 30 percent to 20 percent for enterprises that have turnover of between twenty five million Naira to one hundred million Naira. We also moved taxes from 30 percent to zero percent for enterprises that have turnover of twenty five million Naira and bellow which means they pay no taxes.
“What we are doing in the Finance Bill 2020 is to further renew the Education tax of two percent for that lower category of enterprises that have turnover of twenty five million Naira and bellow.
“So when we say incremental it means gradually making changes, it means the changes may be up or down but for now with the economic slow down, our assessment is that this is the time to cut down on taxes to not increase taxes at all and to not increase levies. This is the time that we need to do that and that is what we are trying to do.
“Another example is the reduction in the duties for vehicles that will be related to the mass transit. Again, no increase in taxes and no increase in VAT,” she said.