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Taxes you should be aware of before starting a business in Nigeria

A key understanding of the tax regime, which operates in your area of operation, is quite important if you want to establish any business.



Taxes you should be aware of before starting a business in Nigeria

Tax liability is an important aspect of your business and compliance obligations. Therefore, a key understanding of the tax regime, which operates in your area of operation, is quite important.

Taxes in Nigeria are of two categories: federal taxes and state taxes. Federal taxes include Companies Income Tax, Value Added Tax, Education Tax, etc. State taxes, on the other hand, include Personal Income Tax, Business Premises Tax, Development levy, etc.


There is usually a Body of Appeal Commissioners that is a court of first instance to handle Tax appeal cases. There is also a Value Added Tax Tribunal. If you are just starting your business, you need to know the taxes you are subjected to paying and have a tax plan in place to help you make the most of your entrepreneurial endeavours.

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Companies income tax

This is a tax chargeable on all companies (other than companies engaged in petroleum operations) registered in Nigeria. It is an annual tax on the profits of registered companies, which profits must accrue in, be derived from, brought into, or received in Nigeria.

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The rate of a company’s income tax is fixed at 30% of taxable income. This tax is remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, and it is payable on a preceding year basis. Companies in the oil and gas field do not pay Company Income Tax; rather, they pay Petroleum Profit Tax which is charged at 85% of the chargeable income.

Value-added tax

Arguably the most popular tax in Nigeria, this is a tax payable by the consumer at 5%. It is a tax imposed on the supply of goods and services. All registered businesses are expected to register and have a VAT registration certificate, with their VAT registration numbers boldly displayed on all invoices. Although companies do not pay VAT, they are mandated by the government to collect VAT from consumers, then remit to the relevant tax body.

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So in essence, the business is an agent of the government for the purposes of collecting VAT. A failure to include VAT, or declare it is an offence that attracts serious fines and severe punishments. VAT filing is monthly, and always due on the 21st day of the subsequent month.

There are however some goods that are exempted from VAT; some examples are educational materials like books, medical and pharmaceutical products, newspapers and magazines, agricultural equipment and products, veterinary medicine, etc.

Capital gains tax

This is a 10% tax imposed on Capital Gains (Profit) arising from a sale, exchange or other disposition of properties known as chargeable assets. Capital gains are the profits that an investor realizes when he or she sells the capital asset for a price that is higher than the purchase price. Capital gains taxes are only triggered when an asset is realized/sold. Emphasis on profit, not sale price.

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Education tax

This fund is made available to the Federal government by the companies, and no, it is not a voluntary contribution.  All registered companies in Nigeria are required to pay a percentage of their assessable profit into an Education Tax Fund. The tax is charged at 2% of the assessable income.

Personal income tax

This tax is payable by all individuals and registered businesses and partnerships, except those registered under Part A of Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 (incorporated companies). The State Inland Revenue Service administers the tax.

This is the rate of calculating personal income tax; First N300,000 of income @7%Next N300,000 of income @ 11%Next N500,000 of income @ 15%Next N500,000 of income @19%Next N1,600,000 of income @ 21%Above N3, 200,000 of income @ 24%.


Withholding tax

This technically isn’t a tax. It is an advanced payment of income tax deducted at source of specific transactions. The recipient of the income is entitled to utilize the withheld tax credit note or receipt, against the final tax obligations. The main purpose is to capture as many tax payers that may have evaded tax into the tax net. WHT rates are usually between 5-10%, depending on the type of transaction. Also, the collecting authority for this tax is the FIRS or State Inland Revenue Service.

If, for example, the amount payable by the purchaser is N2million and the relevant tax rate is 10%, then upon payment the purchaser will deduct N200,000 from the invoice of the supplier, then remit to the relevant tax authority.


Hotel occupancy and restaurants consumption tax

If you intend to venture into businesses such as hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, fast food outlets, bars, and event centres, you should be aware of this tax. Such business is expected to pay 5% tax on goods and services consumed by customers in addition to a further 10% penalty on the latter unremitted tax and the interest charged.

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Pay As You Earn (P.A.Y.E)

This is a scheme by the Taxman to ensure that employees pay their taxes, and puts the duty on the employer to deduct the tax liability of the employees at source; thus, the employees are paid their net salaries. The employer on a monthly basis remits the tax to the State’s Internal Revenue Service, and a tax clearance for that month covers all employees of the company. The PAYE becomes applicable to a business or company with 4 or more employees.

Stamp duty tax

Stamp Duty is chargeable according to a scale fixed by the Joint Tax Board. This is tax paid to the federal or state governments on documents such as conveyances on sale, bills of exchange, promissory notes, agreements, contracts, etc. The federal government has the sole authority to impose charge and collect stamp duties in respect of documents relating to matters between a company and an individual, group or body of individuals.

While, the state government, on the other hand, has authority to collect stamp duty in respect of documents executed between individuals or persons at such rates imposed or agreed with the federal government.

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  1. Loyola Empowerment

    January 13, 2020 at 8:57 am

    And they want the economy to grow. They can’t even make a streamlined way of charging the tax, say a website where you just go and pay online and everything is automated including the clearance certificate. What a Country!
    I’m leaving business because there’s too much taxing involved. This means I’m sending back my staff to the labour market, that’s going to have a toll on the economy.

    Apparently, the Country just wants to take and take and not give any value back.

    Take it from me experience-wise, in this Country things are different, you’re better of being an employee than running a business, cos the cost of running business is too high and your business will eventually crumble, or have very stunted growth compared with what is obtainable overseas. It’s not worth it.

  2. Ayo

    January 13, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for the piece. This is very informative.
    However, I think the calculations of the Personal income tax is different for each State.

    • Martins

      January 13, 2020 at 11:01 am

      @Ayo the computations is the same. While some state may add additional tax levy to the already determined PAYE. E.g, Development levy. Cheer’s

    • Anonymous

      January 14, 2020 at 10:50 pm

      Have you tried running a business in the U.K – before? Do you even know, how much income tax the business owners pay in the U.k?

      Sir, you promise to stay as an employee althrough ya active days- (that’s ya choice) many Nigerians have chosen business.

      Keep ya discouraged Thoughts to yasef, please.

    • Anonymous

      January 19, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      Thank you for the article on tax issue, please I want to ask which tax options is applicable to money lender?

  3. Anonymous

    January 14, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I sincerely share the same view with Loyola sometimes I pay same tax twice because the system is not so organized

  4. tunji

    March 10, 2020 at 7:20 am

    I believe its our civil responsibility to pay tax in order to build the nation ,this is where a substantial amount of the income of the country is derived ,having a business in Nigeria is hard we know but,having a business in another man;s country doesn’t help your country unless you are bringing the money to reinvest in your own country,please lets have a mind set that things will get better and forge on for not just us and our family but for the less privileged amongst us.

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UPDATED: Court rules ICAN members do not need CITN license to file tax returns

The suit, which was filed some years ago by CITN, was basically struck out for lacking merit.




Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State has ruled that members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) do not need to be licensed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) before they can file tax returns.

The ruling on July 2nd followed a suit filed by CITN trying to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns for their clients unless they have a practicing CITN license.


A notice to ICAN members regarding this development, as seen by Nairametrics, noted that Justice Onigbanjo struck out the suit after describing it as “an abuse of court process and an embarrassment to the judiciary.”

The backstory: Nairametrics understands that the disagreement between ICAN and CITN stemmed from the misinterpretation of a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Terms of Settlement (ToS) between the two organisations. Consequently, CITN had filed a suit before the High Court of Lagos State, seeking the following:

  • A declaration that the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Service both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on the CITN and ICAN.
  • An injunction restraining ICAN whether by its agents, privies, assigns, or whosoever called, from repudiating, resiling from or acting in any manner or doing anything that is inconsistent with, contrary to or is a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Terms of Settlement dated February 12, 2015, between the CITN and ICAN.
  • Determine whether the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Settlement both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on CITN and the ICAN.

However, last week’s ruling by Justice S. A. Onigbanjo which, by the way, was delivered virtually due to COVID-19, has made it impossible for the CITN to implement the terms of the 2015 MoU and ToS. The ruling also aligned with ICAN’s earlier objection to the MoU and ToS.

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The status quo: In view of this development, ICAN has informed its members that they do not need to obtain any license from the CITN before they can file tax returns for their clients with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.

ICAN members were also informed that an earlier ruling by the Federal High Court on the case does not affect the status quo. This is because “the earlier ruling by the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make pronouncement on the memorandum and terms of settlement between ICAN and CITN.” More so, regulation 5 of the FIRS Act was not reflected in the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court.

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China more willing to restructure Africa’s debt than private creditors

Agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors.



A recent study by John Hopkins University reveals it may be easier for African Nations to raise debt and also get debt relief from China than private creditors.

The report of the study comes a day after China promised to cancel interests from loans to African nations and restructure debt to Africa. The study also revealed that China has restructured $15 billion of African debt and written off $3.4 billion in the past ten years.


After 1,000 Chinese loans, including restructured Mozambican and Republic of Congo debt, were analysed, the researchers concluded that “the agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors”.

The Paris Club recently agreed to pause debt payment valued at $11 billion for the poorest 73 nations freeing up capital to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. However, not all eligible nations signed up citing fears of default ratings if debt obligations are not met.

The study discovers difficulties in renegotiating terms on International Bonds for African countries due to the disparate ownership structure making private creditors unwilling to grant complete debt relief, citing warnings on rating downgrades.

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China accounts for about 20% of Africa’s external debt and lent over $150 billion to the continent between 2000-2018 the study reveals. Chinese President, Xi Jinping has urged global leaders to be more pragmatic with debt suspension for Africa.

The study says much of the terms of Chinese debt to Africa has not been transparent and the relief negotiations may follow the same path.

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Orange, France’s largest telco operator, may come to Nigeria in months

Orange would also be looking at bolstering partnerships with health companies or institutions.



Orange, France's largest telco operator, may come to Nigeria in months

France’s largest telecom operator, Orange, is set to extend its tentacles to Nigeria and South Africa.

Chief Executive Officer, Orange, Stephane Richard, who disclosed the news, said that the firm would make the move in a few months.


He said, “It could make sense to be in economies such as Nigeria and South Africa. If one considers there are things to do, the time frame I am considering is rather a few months than a few years.”

READ ALSO: French telco inks investment partnership with MainOne

The Middle East and Africa, where Orange has a presence in 18 countries, is the company’s fastest-growing market.

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What you need to know: There are chances that the company may eye payment transfers (mobile) in Nigeria.

That is because it makes the largest chunk of its revenue from payment transfers (Middle East), a key part of the group’s diversification into financial services, and Nigeria, which is the most populous black nation, is always an attraction.

READ MORE: Multichoice to integrate Netflix, Amazon contents into decoder

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Meanwhile, earlier in 2020, Orange had stated that it was bringing its operations in the Middle East and Africa into a single entity, paving the way for a potential listing of the operations that could raise cash to invest in overseas expansion.

“Orange would also be looking at bolstering partnerships with health companies or institutions,” he added.

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