Nigeria: Has The New Lease Rule Come To Change The Tax Space?

Last Updated: 4 March 2019
Article by Adeyemi Adediran and Samuel Bamidele
Most Read Contributor in Nigeria, February 2019

On 13 January, 2016, the International Accounting Standard Board (IASB) announced the issuance of a new accounting standard: International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) 16, on leases, which took effect on 1 January 2019. The new standard has changed the basis of accounting for leases which was in force for more than thirty years. While IFRS 16 completely replaces the old rule under International Accounting Standard (IAS) 17, the major impact is on the recognition, measurement and disclosure requirements for lessees. The new standard eliminates the classification of leases as either operating or finance for lessees and, instead, introduces a single lessee accounting model. According to an IASB survey conducted in 2016, listed companies around the world had around US$3.3 trillion worth of leases. Based on IAS 17 requirements, over 85% of the leases are labelled as operating leases and are not recorded on the balance sheet of these companies. This amounts to about $2.8 trillion worth of leases off the balance sheet of such entities.

Given the effective date of 1 January 2019 for the adoption of the new standard, most companies had about three years to evaluate the legal, commercial and financial reporting impact of the new standard on their financial positions and transactions. In this article, we have discussed the extent to which the new rule disrupts the Nigerian tax space, and the options available to companies and businesses moving forward.

The Old Wine Explained

In line with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) information Circular No.2010/01 on Guidelines on the tax implication of Leases , a lease can be broadly defined as a contractual agreement between an owner (the lessor) and another party (the lessee) which conveys to the lessee the right to use the leased-asset for consideration usually periodic payments called rents. With the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2012, recognition of leases have been based on IAS 17 (the old rule).

Under the old rule, a lease arrangement is classified as either an operating lease or a finance lease. Finance leases are arrangements that transfer risk and rewards relating to the use of an asset from the lessor to the lessee. This means that in a finance lease arrangement, the lessee is deemed the economic owner of the asset since he is able to apply the asset to generate economic benefits from continuous usage. All other types of lease arrangements are classified as operating lease.

Accounting by Lessee and Lessor under the Old Rule - Finance Lease

Under the old rule, lessees were required to recognize a finance lease arrangement as both an asset and a liability at an amount equal to the fair value (sale price agreed upon by a willing buyer and seller, assuming both parties enter the transaction freely and knowledgeably) of leased asset. Where this value is lower than the fair value, recognition should be based on the present value of the minimum lease payments to be made by the lessee.

Finance (interest) charge is also accrued on the liability over the term of the lease. Subsequently, the annual lease payment made by the lessee is applied towards settling the liability and finance charge that has accrued in relation to the arrangement. Thus, by the end of the lease term, the lessee would have paid for the fair value of the asset plus the finance charge on the leased assets. The lessee depreciates (it may fair value or revalue alternatively) the leased assets annually and charges the annual finance (interest) cost to its income statement.

Since risk and rewards are transferred in a finance lease, lessors are not allowed to recognize the leased asset in their books. Rather, they recognize a receivable (from the lessee) equal to the fair value of the leased asset. Additionally, lessors recognize annual finance income receivable from lessee over the term of the lease.

Accounting by Lessee and Lessor under the Old Rule - Operating Lease

Under operating lease, lessors retain the risk and rewards. Hence, lessees are not allowed to recognize any asset. Lessees recognize operating lease payment as periodic expense on a straight-line basis over the term of the lease. Lessors however continue to carry the asset in its books, depreciating them on annual basis. Additionally, they recognize the operating lease rental receivable from lessee over the term of the lease from lessees as periodic income in the income statements.

Tax Implications of the Old Rule

The Companies Income Tax Act provides for the tax treatments of leases. The tax treatments are also explained in the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Circular on the Tax Implication of the Adoption of the IFRS. It should be noted that the prescribed tax treatment aligns with the old rule under IAS 17.

Under a finance lease arrangement, lessees have the responsibility to deduct withholding tax on the annual finance/interest charge while they claim capital allowance on the leased asset. The interest charge constitutes a deductible expense when computing their income tax liability. For lessors, the finance income constitutes a taxable income and they are not allowed to claim capital allowance on the leased assets.

For operating lease arrangement, the lessee deducts withholding tax on the annual operating lease rental while the lessor accounts for the VAT on the amount. The lease rental constitute deductible expense and taxable income in the books of the lessee and lessor respectively. Additionally, the lessor continues to claim capital allowance on the asset.

What has Changed?

The new rule retains the two categories of leases, operating and finance, for the lessor, as well as the recognition under the old rule. However, it prescribes a single accounting treatment for lessees. The new rule requires lessees to recognize a "right-of-use asset" and a lease liability at the inception of the lease. The lease liability is measured at the present value of outstanding lease payment. The recognized liability accrues finance (interest) charges over the term of the lease and any payment made by the lessee is used to settle the original liability and any finance charge that might have accrued for the period. Lessees subsequently depreciate (or fair value or revalue) the "right-of-use asset" over the term of the lease or life of asset.

One major implication of the above for the lessee is that, its balance sheet must recognize all lease assets and liabilities. Thus, lessees would now recognize operating lease arrangements as leased assets and liabilities. Another resulting implication is that both lessee and lessor will recognize an asset in their respective books for the same transaction. An example is a 20-year lease of a property. Based on the new rule, the lessee must recognize a "right-of-use asset" measured at the present value of annual lease payments over the 20 years, adding any other incidental costs to the arrangement. The lessee depreciates the right-of-use asset over 20 years and recognizes the finance/interest charge in his income statement. On the other hand, the lessor continues to carry the cost of the property in his books and depreciates it over its useful life. This calls for a review of the tax implication of leases since both the lessee and the Lessor are now allowed to recognize the assets in their books.

Tax Implications and Available Options

Addressing the tax implications of the new lease rule may be tricky. First, the Nigerian tax laws have not changed in this regard. Thus, it can be presumed that tax treatments of transactions remain the same, irrespective of changes to accounting practices. Secondly, the interpretation of tax laws usually follows the rule of commercial accountancy, except where specific provisions in the law exist to the contrary. Hence, where new accounting rules have been prescribed for a transaction, the accounting principle can guide the tax treatment except where it directly contradicts an existing provision of the tax law.

There are a number of tax issues to deal with relating to the new lease rule especially as it relates to operating lease arrangements since the existing tax rules are still relevant for Finance lease arrangements.

Consequently, it is important to determine the tax treatment of right-of-use assets recognized by the lessee. In addition, the tax treatments of finance cost and depreciation expense relating to this right-of-use-asset, needs to be ascertained. This is important as the lessor is also recognizing the same asset in its records, albeit at the historical purchase amount. Lastly, it is important to critically consider the impact of the new rule on deferred tax calculations for businesses.

Three alternative tax treatments can be given to the right-of-use asset. The right-of-use asset can be treated as a qualifying capital expenditure on which the lessee can claim capital allowance. Although there is no direct provision for this in our current law, the substance of the arrangement bestows upon lessees the title of economic user of the asset. Alternatively, the depreciation expense can be allowed as a deductible expense over the term of the lease. This option may also seem to contradict deductibility rule, but it is consistent with the current treatment of allowing amortization of intangibles as deductible expense. The third option will be to restrict the deductible expense to actual lease rental payable for each period over the term of the lease. This option is in line with the tax treatment under the old lease rule.

The tax treatment accorded the associated finance cost follows the option adopted for the right-of-use asset closely. Where the deductible expense is restricted to the actual lease rental, the finance cost also constitutes a non-deductible expense. The withholding tax obligation would then be on the actual lease rental. Where the depreciation expense is treated as deductible or capital allowance is claimed in lieu, the finance cost is also allowed as deductible expense. Withholding tax becomes due on the accrued finance/interest charge for the period.

Deferred tax liability or asset will also arise since the tax base of the leased assets and liability will be different from their carrying amount, depending on the tax treatment given the transactions. Subject to the circumstances and a company's tax accounting policy, this new lease rule will potentially have an impact on the deferred tax position of companies in their financial statements. It is also important to note that tax related processes and controls, transfer pricing policy and other key performance indicators may need to be up-dated in order to capture all required information.

Conclusion

In conclusion, companies and businesses should evaluate, in addition to legal, commercial and accounting review, the tax impact that the new lease rule will have on their balance sheet. This is even more critical for entities in the aviation, shipping, heavy equipment, banking and leasing sectors who have numerous operating lease contracts. Tax authorities in other jurisdictions such as US, UK and Europe are taking proactive steps in addressing the tax implications of new accounting rules by coming up with detailed guidelines and circulars that can be adopted by taxpayers (and their representatives) when filing their tax returns. This reduces uncertainty and frictions for the taxpayers and tax authority. The FIRS should therefore take the lead by coming up with a detailed circular to provide guidance on the tax treatments to be adopted by taxpayers as was done in the past.

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
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Country
Position
Industry
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please 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