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FIRS demands evidence of $2 million tax remittance from General Electric

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has requested for evidence that General Electric International Operations Nigeria Ltd remitted the excessive tax it withheld from Arco Group Plc, for nine years.

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Mr Tunde Fowler Chairman, Federal inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tax

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has requested for evidence that General Electric International Operations Nigeria Ltd remitted the excessive tax it withheld from Arco Group Plc, for nine years.

In recent times there has been series of allegation that General Electric (GE) withheld tax in excess of $3 million from its payments to Arco Group Plc, a Nigerian oil servicing company.

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Series of allegations by both parties

GE had earlier engaged Arco for the supply of local personnel, it was alleged that GE deducted 10% as withholding tax for a servicing contract from 2006 to 2015 as against the 5% stipulated by Nigerian laws.

Arco in a letter addressed to FIRS seeking an explanation over the deductions, noted that its interpretation of the contract of supply is that the applicable WHT rate should be 5% in line with the Federal Inland Revenue Service Circular No. 2006/02 dated February 2006.

Responding to the letter, Chairman FIRS, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, noted that the FIRS circular in question classified the supply of personnel, personnel protective equipment and uniforms, office equipment and furniture, vehicles and fueling as contained in the contract document could only be charged five percent withholding tax (WHT). The deductible rate for site accommodation or rent, he said, was 10 per cent.

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Fowler then demanded evidence that GE remitted the WHT deducted from Arco over the nine-year period

The Chairman further said GE must make available to Arco

“all outstanding WHT Credit Notes in respect of remittances made in its favor”.

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The sums in contention are €56,577.61, $2,923,642.36  and N360,482,041.19.

About the company

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Arco Group Plc is a leading oil and gas servicing firm with over 35 years’ experience in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry. The Group offers local partnership solutions that deliver outstanding service through a team of over 400 indigenous employees.

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General Electric has been operating in Nigeria for over 40 years, with businesses spanning a number of key sectors including aviation, power, oil and gas, healthcare, and rail transportation.

 

Fikayo has a degree in computer science with economics from Obafemi Awolowo University. ITIL v3 in IT service management. An alumnus of Daystar Leadership Academy. Prior to joining Nairametrics had stinct in Project management, Telecommunications among others. Also training in Consulting and Investment banking from Edubridge Academy. He has very keen interest in Politics, Agri-business, private equity and global economics. He loves travelling and watching football. You can contact him via fikayo.owoeye@nairametrics.com

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Economy & Politics

Can a lower MPR rate really prevent this recession?

We are on the brink of a recession. Whilst policies like these could offer a buffer, the prolonged existence of the pandemic on the economy is one nail in the coffin that can only be halted by the provision of a vaccine.

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The world is in a fix. Covid-19, unprecedented as it is, has led to economic shocks owing to severe disruptions in the global supply chain, rising levels of corporate and public debt, rising levels of unemployment, negative shocks to commodity prices, and more. To cushion the negative impacts on economies around the world, global leaders have put policies in place hoping that it will stop or, at least, slow down the negative trajectory of these failing economies. It was in the same light that the Central Bank of Nigeria decided to lower the MPR rate to 12.5% from 13.5%.  

How the Decision Came About 

In a meeting held by the CBN’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Thursday this week, a majority of the members voted to cut the rate from 13.5% to 12.5%. During an earlier meeting held in March, the decision to hold rates had been unanimous. However, given the deepening challenges of the present time, seven out of the 10 members at the MPC meeting voted to cut the rate. Even more interesting is the fact that the rest of the panel opted for a more aggressive easing, with two voting for a 150 basis-point reduction and one for 200 basis points. 

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Why the Decision Was Made 

COVID-19’s adverse effects on the global economy have been unprecedented and severe. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on Thursday 28th May, the MPC had noted key observations in the macroeconomic environment resulting from the adverse impacts of COVID-19 as well as the drop in crude oil prices. Some of the key highlights of the current economic situation include: 

  • The significant decline in Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Indices (PMIs) to 42.4 and 25.3 index points, respectively, in May 2020, compared with 51.1 and 49.2 index points in March 2020. 
  • The marginal growth in broad money (M3) to 2.66 percent in April 2020 from 2.42 percent in March 2020, largely due to increases in Net Domestic and Foreign Assets.
  • The significant growth of aggregate net credit by 8.07 percent in April 2020 compared with 4.90 percent in March 2020 (still below the indicative benchmark of 16.85 percent for the year. 

The committee also mentioned the gradual improvement in macroeconomic variables, particularly the improvement in the equities market, the containment measures of the COVID-19 induced health crisis, as well as the impact of the increase in crude oil price on the external reserves. It also noted the stability in the banking system as shown by the increase in total assets by 18.8 percent and total deposits by 25.52 percent (year-on-year).  

Given the overall economic situation and its impact on the average Nigerian, the MPC was of the view that any tightening of policy stance is, for now, inappropriate as it will result in further contraction of aggregate demand, thereby leading to a decline in output – which is necessary to sustain the supply chain for growth recoveryFor the option of holding previous policy stance, the MPC believed holding may indicate that the monetary authorities are insensitive to prevailing weak economic conditions. Also noteworthy is the fact that this move to cut rates have been carried out by many other central banks across the globe, includingAustraliaMalaysia, and the U.S. Federal Reserve. 

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The Impact Of The Decision 

The expected outcome of the decision of the CBN is to ensure that the economy reverses from the recession quickly. As such, the decision is geared towards stimulating growth and swift recovery. The cut, being the lowest in four years, rests on the optimism that it will possibly avert a recession. It, however, has its limitations. A clear challenge is the impact the rate cut will have on inflation which has been way above the target range of 6% to 9% for five years. There is also the issue of increasing pressure on the naira.  

The rising question is whether the rate cut will do enough to prevent a recession. This is an important question, taking into account the volatility in the crude market – a sector that accounts for about 90% of exports and more than half of government revenue, the fall in private sector credit of 61% from just a year earlier, as well as all of the same challenges that spurred the making of the decision in the first place.  

We are on the brink of a recession. Whilst policies like these could offer a buffer, the prolonged existence of the pandemic on the economy is one nail in the coffin that can only be halted by the provision of a vaccine. It is only when life reverts to normalcy that we can begin to undo the damage thus far.  

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Business News

Why households that engage in subsistence agriculture are poor – Yemi Kale

“We established the poverty line at N137,430 and any individual or family that spends below this on food in a year will be classified below the poverty line.”

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Rauf Aregbesola annual colloquium

Subsistence agriculture alone may never be able to sustain any household in Nigeria. This is according to Nigeria’s Statistician-General and CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Dr Yemi Kale, who spoke during the Rauf Aregbesola annual colloquium earlier today. The event had the theme Government Unusual: Innovative Economic Solutions to Unlock Mass Prosperity.

Using insights from the 2019 National Living Standards Survey, Dr Kale explained that households that are solely engaged in subsistence agriculture appear to have the highest levels of poverty. This set of families are followed by households with more than twenty members.

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“This doesn’t mean agriculture is a bad thing. It simply means the way we do agriculture in Nigeria has to be improved so that it does not become synonymous with poverty or we have to find other sources of income for farmers to supplement their standard of living,” he said.

Speaking further, Dr Kale explained that the living standards survey, which was conducted in collaboration with the World Bank, started in late 2018 and ended in 2019. The survey utilized data from all states in Nigeria except Borno whose data was not considered credible enough given the security situation in the state. Kale said:

“We established the poverty line at N137,430 and any individual or family that spends below this on food in a year will be classified below the poverty line.”

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Given this yardstick, the survey established that at least 22.9 million Nigerians are living in poverty, with the bulk of this number coming from the rural areas and states with low indices on education, social welfare initiatives, employment, and income equality.

Formalising the informal sector

The informal sector comprises people who earn enough to keep above the poverty line on a daily basis, but not enough to sustain them in the event of a lockdown, as was seen recently in some states during the April COVID-19 lockdown. This is a problem that can only be solved if the informal sector becomes formalised, Kale said. In other words, formalizing this sector will help more daily wage earners stay above the poverty line. He made reference to the recent lockdown which incapacitated lots of daily wage earners in states such as Lagos.

Nigeria’s poor versus other African countries

Making a comparison, Yale also noted that Nigeria’s poor are poorer than their counterparts in South Africa despite the fact that the nominal size of Nigeria’s economy is much larger.

He attributed this to findings which showed that Nigerians spend three times more on foods and consumables than all other items put together, as against countries like South Africa and Egypt where less is spent on food items.

“Nigerian remains Africa’s largest economy, but per capita income is rather low for a country of this size, and the level of poverty presents a major development challenge” he noted.

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Reducing unemployment – the fastest way out

According to Kale, the fastest way out of poverty is to reduce unemployment, as people will naturally have more to spend on their needs when they are employed. To support his point, Kalu cited five Nigerian states with the least poor people in comparison to the other states Lagos, Delta, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo. Each of these states has fewer unemployment levels compared to the states with higher poverty rates such as Sokoto, Taraba, Jigawa, Ebonyi, and Adamawa states.

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Other indicators which show similar trends across the states are education, and ease of doing business. The poverty rates are almost always higher where education is poor.

Increasing local production

Also making a presentation during the colloquium, Dr Joe Abah called for a review of the 1978 land use act which he said is limiting in its provisions. He also stressed that Nigeria needs to improve access to capital, raw materials, lands, and technological innovations so that production capacity can increase significantly.

“All of the richer countries simply produce more, and they produce more things that people want to buy and want to consume. It could be products or services. the higher your production capacity, the richer you are. if you cannot produce, you cannot develop your education or your health sector.”

According to Abah, the cost of governance cannot be reduced without adopting some of the suggestions of the Oronsaye report, and restructuring the system for productivity. He said that “there is also a need to link budget and funding to productivity so that public sectors begin to understand that the more funding they require, the more they are expected to produce as well.”

He also suggested that states should start focusing on their competitive advantage and use same to improve general productivity in their state.

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Other panelists at the colloquium include Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor, Kaduna State, Sen. Abubakar Bagudu, Governor, Kebbi State, Mrs. Hajara Adeola, CEO, Lotus Capital Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, CEO, Financial Derivatives Limited, Dr. Joe Abah, Country Director, DAI, Dr. Yemi Cardoso, Chairman, Citibank Nigeria, with Boason Omofaye as the moderator.

You may watch the colloquium by clicking here.

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Economy & Politics

Output cut: Nigeria leads in OPEC non-compliance with 50 unsold cargoes of crude

Nigeria and Iraq were reported not to have kept to their commitment to the huge production cut deal that had promised to reduce output by 9.7 million barrels of crude oil per day.

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As opinions continue to differ on whether OPEC will extend its current oil output cut beyond June, available information has shown that not all members of the oil cartel complied fully with their agreed quotas for the month of May. This is despite the fact that the oil output by OPEC member countries reached its lowest in almost 20 years.

Available data from oilprice.com showed that OPEC members cut their output by 5.91 million barrels per day from the April level, producing 24.77 million barrels per day. This figure also showed a 4.48 million barrel per day of the agreed output cut, thereby representing a 74% compliance level.

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Nigeria and Iraq were reported not to have kept to their commitment to the huge production cut deal that had promised to reduce output by 9.7 million barrels of crude oil per day.

Iraq was able to achieve just 38% compliance of its agreed output cut for the month of May, while Nigeria, which achieved a much lower compliance of the agreed output cut, recorded 19% compliance of what was agreed. Saudi Arabia showed the highest compliance, recording 96% of the agreed output cut.

Some have attributed the noncompliance of some members of OPEC to the agreed output cut, to the contractual obligations and commitment to buyers, given the short timeframe between when the agreement for the output cut was made and its implementation.

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Meanwhile oil exports from Angola and Congo remained steady at high prices on Friday, while Nigerian oil fared lower amid huge inventory of unsold cargoes.

Nigeria continues to face some difficulty in the oil market, primarily due to sluggish demand from Europe; it has around 50 unsold cargoes of crude oil yet to be sold for the months of June and July.

Meanwhile, India has become one of the few buyers for the Nigerian oil. Indian oil firms bought about 5-6 million barrels of Nigerian crude oil last week and has bought about 2 million barrels as at Thursday this week.

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