The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) recently directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning (MoF) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to collect and subsequently remit statutory levy due to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI or the Agency).
The Agency was established by the NASENI Act, Cap N3 LFN 2004 (the Act) enacted in 1992. The Act also created the NASENI Fund (the Fund) to be managed by the Agency. The Agency was established to perform the following duties:
- Implement the National Science and Technology Policy
- Establish and operate science & engineering infrastructure development complexes and centres
- Implement strategies for the generation of private-sector science and engineering capital goods industries
- Develop facilities and capabilities, through the Agency’s subsidiary institutions, universities and polytechnics for research and development
- Support national scientific bodies and provide national focal points for international scientific affiliations
- Carry out such other activities as are necessary or expedient for the performance of the Agency’s functions under the Act
The Act seeks to levy commercial companies and firms to complement the FGN in funding NASENI. While the FGN is to contribute 3% of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account into the Fund, commercial companies and firms with income or turnover of ₦4million and above are required to contribute 0.25% of turnover (the Levy), into the Fund. The Fund will also consist of grants, donations and fees charged by the Agency for its services.
Based on Sections 20(2)(b) of the Act, the Levy is to be collected by the FIRS or by any other suitable means as may be specified by the Agency and credited to the account of the Agency. Also, contributions to the NASENI Fund are tax-deductible in line with Section 22 of the Act.
Since its enactment in 1992, the funding provisions of the NASENI Act have not been fully implemented, especially with respect to the levy on commercial companies and firms with income or turnover of ₦4million and above. However, the recent presidential directive to the MoF and FIRS may trigger the enforcement of the erstwhile dormant provisions of the Act.
We expect that the FGN through NASENI and FIRS will release appropriate guidelines and regulations to clarify certain ambiguities in the Act, such as:
- Definition of “turnover” for NASENI levy purposes – the Act is silent on what constitutes “turnover” for the purpose of the levy. In the absence of subsequent guidelines from NASENI, the definition of turnover is anticipated to be in line with the relevant International Financial Reporting Standards
- Definition of “firms” for NASENI levy purposes – does this include partnership businesses and individuals with business names?
- The due date for payment of the NASENI levy
- The penalties for non-compliance with the provisions of the Act
- The threshold for the levy on commercial companies and firms. The threshold was recently increased by the NASENI Governing Board to ₦100 million. However, the Act does not empower the Governing Board to vary the threshold.
While the Act intends to stimulate the nexus between science and technology and the economic and industrial transformation, it does appear that the timing of implementation of the NASENI levy was prioritized over the following possible downsides:
- Additional pressure on earnings of companies doing business in Nigeria, despite the combined effects of the COVID-19 disruptions and recent economic recession.
- Likely increase in overall time and cost of tax compliance in Nigeria.
- Ultimate impact on the ease of doing business and investors’ confidence in the country
We will continue to monitor this space and provide updates as they become available. Meanwhile, affected taxpayers are encouraged to arrange their affairs and financial projections in preparation for immediate compliance with the provisions of the Act.