Nigeria: Tax Deductibility Of Expenses Incurred Outside Nigeria: Are Days Of Arbitrary Awards Over?

Last Updated: 23 February 2017
Article by Deloitte Nigeria

Most Read Contributor in Nigeria, October 2018

The increased pace of globalisation has not left Nigeria and Nigerian companies out. Consequently, Nigerian companies are increasingly involved in business activities abroad in order to remain competitive in today's business environment. This means that companies in Nigeria earn income and/or incur costs outside Nigeria.

Nigeria is yet to attain the status of an industrialised nation or developed economy where most business resources, technical expertise and advanced technological infrastructure are available locally. It has therefore been common practice for business organisations in Nigeria to seek some of the resources required for their local business operations outside the shores of the country.

Besides the local availability of required resources, Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) adopt various strategies aimed at optimising costs and by tapping into the synergies that exist within. One of such strategies is to centralise some strategic functions to be performed on behalf of all the entities within their group at a particular location. This helps to enhance economies of scale, operational flexibility and competitiveness. Examples of such services include administrative services at a corporate level, procurement, research and development, treasury management, manpower supply, mobility services etc. In most cases, the cost incurred on these services is apportioned among the MNE's affiliated entities across the globe.

The draftsmen of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) seems to have pre-empted the current wave of globalisation and included a provision to subject income earned abroad by a Nigerian company to tax in Nigeria (Section 8). It also contains provisions that seek to subject income earned in Nigeria by non-Nigerian companies to tax (sections 8 and 10). What is mind bugging though, is the provision of Section 27(i) of CITA, which provides that "...no deduction shall be allowed for the purpose of ascertaining the profits of any company in respect of any expense of any description incurred outside Nigeria for and on behalf of any company except of a nature and to the extent as the Board may consider allowable"

Over the years, there have been conflicting views on the interpretation of the above provision. While a school of thought believes that the section seeks to preclude the deductibility of expenses incurred outside Nigeria for tax purpose (except the Board thinks otherwise), another school has argued that the section only seeks to prohibit the deduction of expenses incurred outside Nigeria by a company on behalf another company.

Expectedly, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has consistently adopted the first mentioned interpretation in their increasing attempt to apply the provision of Section 27(i) to offshore costs incurred by Nigerian companies. In applying this interpretation, FIRS has allowed between 0% and 100% of offshore costs as tax-deductible, depending on the strength of argument put forward by each taxpayer. On this arbitrary application, one key question comes to mind – "was Section 27 intended to give FIRS the right to arbitrary deductibility of expenses even if such expenses have been legitimately incurred?"

Based on the foregoing, it is imperative to analyse the tax consequence of expenses incurred by companies outside Nigeria, as this could influence their cost optimisation policies and efforts to remain competitive.

In Nigeria, the general test for tax deductibility of expenses by companies, other than those involved in petroleum exploration and production, is that any expense incurred in generating the profits of a company must satisfy all the four major conditions stated in the CITA, usually referred to as the WREN test. In essence, the expense must be wholly, reasonably, exclusively and necessarily incurred during that period for the purpose of generating the profits of the business. The details of the conditions are specified below:

  • Wholly – the entire expense amount must be incurred in generating the profits of the company.
  • Reasonably – the expense must be reasonable in relation to the profit or loss for the period, comparative amounts of the expense in previous years, materiality of the amount of the expense, general business environment, industry practice and relevant regulatory approvals.
  • Exclusively – the business alone must have obtained the benefit of incurring that expense. Any part of that expense relating to a benefit derived by some other persons will not be allowed as a deduction from the income of the business.
  • Necessarily – the expense should be such that the company's business profit cannot be derived without incurring that expense.

The CITA goes further to give examples of expenses that would typically pass the WREN test such as interest on loan, staff costs, repairs, rent, etc., as well as those that would not e.g. depreciation, capital expenditure, etc. One of the non-tax deductible expenses cited under CITA is the issue of expenses incurred outside Nigeria as provided in Section 27(i).

In practice, FIRS often disregard the WREN test when determining the tax deductibility of expenses incurred outside Nigeria. Rather, it simply makes reference to Section 27(i) and upholds its own interpretation that since such expenses were incurred outside Nigeria, they should be disallowed irrespective of whether they pass the WREN test or not. A case in point is that of Nigerian Breweries Plc (NB) vs FIRS, which was presented before the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT), where the revenue authority insisted that the buying commission and handling charges incurred outside Nigeria by the appellant (NB) and payable to an affiliate entity, are not deductible despite the fact that they passed the WREN test as indicated in Section 24 of CITA. The appellant argued that Section 24 is the relevant section to determine the deductibility of the expenses in question while section 27(i) only speaks to expenses incurred outside Nigeria on behalf of another company.

The ruling of the TAT provides further clarity on this subject. TAT ruled in favour of the appellant, stating that the handling charges and buying commission incurred by the company outside Nigeria, and payable to an affiliate entity are tax-deductible. The basis of TAT's decision are provided below:

  • Section 27(i) refers to expenses incurred for and on behalf of any company by the taxable company. Thus the provisions of the section will only apply if the taxpayer incurs the expenses for and on behalf of another company. In any case, the ambiguity in the provision will be resolved in favour of the taxpayer.
  • The expenses in question have been wholly, reasonably, exclusively and necessarily incurred by the appellant for the production of its profits in line with the provisions of Section 24 of CITA. Removing any expense from this general rule would require a specific provision and clearly, section 27(i) does not satisfy this.

The TAT ruling is a judicial breakthrough and a welcome relief to lots of companies who incur a substantial portion of their expenses outside Nigeria. It should lay to rest the view held by some that Section 27(i) precludes the tax deductibility of expenses incurred outside Nigeria except where the ruling of the TAT is set aside by a superior court upon appeal by FIRS. Nigerian companies are therefore advised to take note of the principles established in this case and ensure relevant supporting documentary evidence is in place to satisfy the WREN test for tax deductibility of expenses incurred by them in generating business profits.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions