Transparency issues over MTN’s tax obligations to FIRS  –Report

*Investigation uncovers discrepancies in actual amount MTN Nigeria Communications Plc paid to the tax regulator, as parties are reportedly reluctant to offer a clear explanation to Nigerians

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

MTN Nigeria Communications Plc’s claim that it paid the sum of N618.7 billion in both direct and indirect taxes to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2021 has continued to raise dusts in public quarters.

Amid the confusing atmosphere, MTN Nigeria, in a statement issued by the company’s Secretary, Uto Ukpanah, April 2,  2022, had claimed it paid the amount in direct and indirect taxes to the FIRS in the 2021 tax year, making it the largest single biggest contributor to taxes in Nigeria.

FIRS Headquarters in Abuja, FCT

The South African telecoms company added that its total tax contribution to all Nigerian government agencies was 13.5 percent of FIRS’ total collection for the year.

The Telco also stated: “In 2021, MTN Nigeria’s total tax contribution to all government agencies, including the FIRS amounted to N757.6 billion while FIRS collected a total of N6.4 trillion tax revenue in the year.”

However, the MTN’s claim came on the heels of FIRS’ recognition of 20 top taxpayers in the country including the telecommunications giant.

However, ThisDay calculations revealed that the N618.7 billion tax payment claimed by MTN Nigeria represented less than 10 percent of the N6.4 trillion that was reported as total collection by the Service (FIRS) for 2021.

Hence, MTN’s claim that it contributed 13 percent of total FIRS collections of N6.4 trillion would mean it actually must have remitted N832 billion to the Federal Government in the period in question.

Following the apparent discrepancies unravelled by ThisDay checks,  using MTN’s prior statement,  the former raised pertinent questions and sought clarification from both the apex revenue agency and the leading telecoms firm in the West African country.

The FIRS has declined to provide ThisDay with the “specific amount paid” by the telecoms service provider as taxes.

The tax authority said that the figure churned out by MTN Nigeria did not tally with its own account report stated.

Yet, the buck falls on FIRS as a matter of transparency and confidence in the management of public accounts to make proper rendition to Nigerians.

Report further indicates the development particularly smacks of negligence on the part of the Service, and requires that both parties unravel the truth of the entire transactions.

Sources have confided in ThisDay that the refusal of both FIRS and MTN to do the needful also contradicts the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FoI).

The FoI, among other things, forbids companies and agencies of the government from withholding critical information that is in public interest.

Observers also said the attitude of both companies serves to undermine the anti-corruption agenda of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Specifically,  Section 2,  Sub-section 4 of the FoI Act requires that “a public institution shall ensure that information referred to in this section is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means,  including print, electronic,  and online sources,  and at offices of such public institutions.

Analysts also said MTN Nigeria, as a corporate entity, cannot afford to shy away from the principles of transparency and accountability in the interest of its shareholders and the public by detailing the various taxes the company paid to government within the year in question.

ConsumerConnect had reported the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts also is currently probing MTN Nigeria’s assets value, tax claims, Capital Allowances, and actual taxes paid to FIRS for some years.

Hon. Oluwole Oke, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, had stated that the telecoms company must produce the relevant documents in regard to its transactions with the tax office, as Nigerians deserve to know the truth about such transactions.

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