Tribunal approves MultiChoice’s appeal against FIRS over N1.8trn tax evasion

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The Tax Appeal Tribunal, Lagos Zone, has ruled that MultiChoice Nigeria has complied with the conditions for the hearing of its appeals against the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over N1.8 trillion tax evasion charge against the satellite television service provider.

Ahmad, the tribunal chairman, dismissed the contention of the FIRS that the said deposit made by MultiChoice amounted to non-compliance with Paragraph 15(7) of the FIRS Act.

The decision follows a Tax Appeal Tribunal’s order demanding Multichoice pays 50 per cent of N1.8 trillion which the FIRS had determined through a forensic audit to be the tax liability owed the government by the South-African company over a 10-year period.

The tribunal held that “the appellant has not only complied with the orders of this court but has also provided sufficient evidence before this tribunal that they are credible and ready to pursue this matter with all sense of responsibility and seriousness.”

After listening to submissions from both counsels, the Tribunal ruled in favour of MultiChoice.

According to the Tribunal, MultiChoice has met conditions to enable it pursue an appeal against FIRS. The tribunal fixed November 17 for the hearing of the appeal.

While ruling on some issues raised by FIRS, the tribunal held that, “We have carefully examined the submission of both counsels and we are of the understanding that this tribunal has been called upon to give a ruling on the proper legal interpretation of the relevant sections of provisions of paragraph 15 of FIRS Establishment Act 2017 based on which the orders of this Tribunal of August 24, 2021 was made.

“This tribunal is unable to agree with the argument presented by the respondent’s counsel because the said portion of the paragraph in the FIRS talks about the ‘preceding year’ and not ‘preceding years. The paragraph under consideration also talks about assessment’ and not ‘assessments’ therefore this tribunal will not add or reduce anything from the said paragraph.”

MultiChoice Nigeria had filed an appeal against FIRS on the ground that it had wrongfully assessed its tax over a period of 10 years.

However, at the last adjourned date, the FIRS had opposed the hearing of the appeal on the ground that MultiChoice did not comply with the directives of the tribunal.

According to FIRS, there was no proof of payment in this regard and therefore sought the tribunal to discontinue with the appeal.

On its part, MultiChoice had argued that it had complied with the relevant provision of the FIRS (Establishment) Act.

According to MultiChoice, the provision did not compel it to pay N900 billion. It argued that it had paid N10 billion to FIRS pending the determination of the tax dispute before the tribunal.