The Honourable Chief Judge (CJ) of the Federal High Court (FHC), Honourable Justice J.T. Tsoho, pursuant to his powers under Section 44(1) & (2) of the FHC Act and Paragraph 17(5) of the Fifth Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) (Establishment) Act issued the FHC Tax Appeal (Procedure) Rules, 2022 ("the Rules"). The Rules repeals the FHC (Tax Appeal) Rules, 1992, and became effective on 10 January 2022.
The Rules guides appeal against decisions of the Tax Appeal Tribunal ("TAT"), as well as other matters connected to the production of Notices of Appeal, the filing of tax appeals, and their prosecution at the FHC.
The following are some of the noteworthy revisions made by the Rules:
i. APPEAL AGAINST POINTS OF LAW -Order 1 Rule 1
The Rules provide that a party dissatisfied with a decision of the Tribunal may appeal to the Court on Points of Law by filing a Notice of Appeal at the Tribunal.
ii. SECURITY DEPOSIT FOR PROSECUTING APPEAL – Order V
The Rules require a taxpayer challenging the decision of the Tax Appeal Tribunal("the Tribunal") to deposit the judgement debt in an interest yielding amount maintained by the Chief Registrar of the Court. Otherwise, the appeal will not be heard.
iii. ACCELERATED HEARING OF TAX APPEALS - Order V Rule 6
The Rules provide for accelerated hearing of tax appeals. A judge is statutorily empowered by the Rules to abridge the time to perform an act under the Rules.
iv. ELECTRONIC SERVICE OF COURT PROCESSES – OrderVII(1)(d)
The Rules provide for electronic service of court processes and hearing notices by SMS, emails, WhatsApp, or any other platform that the Court recommends.
v. ABRIDGEMENT OF TIME FOR SERVICE OF BRIEF OF ARGUMENTS –Order IV(3)(iii)
Under the repealed rule, the time for service of appellant and respondent brief was thirty(30) days. The new rules provide for the abridgement of time for the service of appellants' and respondents' written briefs from 30 days each to 15 days each.
Without a question, the new Rules incorporated certain commendable reforms that, if strictly followed, will result in the expeditious disposition of appeals from Tax Appeal Tribunal decisions.
The need for a taxpayer appealing a Tribunal decision to deposit the judgement debt with the court before the hearing of the appeal would, however, present a significant hurdle to taxpayers seeking justice.
While the additional provisions are excellent, it is hoped that the Rules will be revisited and revised in the future to handle other ambiguous areas.
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.