Circular from the FIRS on Tax Remittances During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Following the increase in the recorded cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) globally, Nigeria specifically, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); Muhammad Nami wrote a public letter dated March 23, 2020. This letter was addressed to all taxpayers essentially articulating measures taken by the FIRS to ensure a balance between tax compliances and safety of taxpayers, staff of FIRS, stakeholders and the general public in this challenging period. The measures adopted by the FIRS to achieve the said balance can be conveniently categorised and discussed under three heads which include; extension of time within which to comply with tax obligations, ease of filing of tax returns and communications, as well as the observance of globally recognised social distancing rules recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to reduce the spread of the virus. These measures are discussed below.
1. Extension of Timeline to Comply with Tax Obligations
a. Filing of Value Added Tax (VAT) and Withholding Tax: Ordinarily, VAT
and Withholding tax returns are filed on a preceding monthly basis; specifically, on or before the 21st day of the month succeeding the
month of deduction. However, during the period of this pandemic, VAT and Withholding tax returns can now be filed on or before the last working day of the succeeding month of deduction.

b. Filing of Companies Income Tax Returns: Every company has its own due date to file tax returns depending on the date fixed as its financial year end and the status of the company. The FIRS has extended the filing period by one month. For example, for existing companies, the due date for filing returns is now within seven (7) months (previously six (6) months) from the end of the financial year end, while newly incorporated companies, are expected to file their returns within nineteen (19) months (previously 18 months) from the date of incorporation or not later than seven (7) (previously six (6) months) months after the end of its accounting period, whichever is earlier.

c. Filing of Returns without Audited Account: Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, companies are expected to submit their Audited Accounts along with a duly completed Self-Assessment Form from FIRS, also evidence of payment of the whole or part of tax due into a designated bank account etc. Taxpayers can now, within this period of Covid-19 outbreak, file returns without the Audited Accounts, provided that the relevant audited accounts are submitted unfailingly within two months after the revised due date of filing

d. Filing of Personal Income Tax Returns: It is interesting to note that the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) has also taken steps in consideration of taxpayers during this COVID-19 pandemic. The LIRS has extended the deadline for filing personal income tax returns by 2 months (31st of March to 31st of May 2020).

2. Ease of Filing Tax Returns and Communications
In line with WHO and global directive for all to avoid physical contact and embrace social distancing during this period of COVID-19 outbreak, the FIRS has re-emphasised the need for taxpayers to make use of electronic filing and communication means which have been previously put in place but under-utilised. The following E-filing platforms have been listed for taxpayers’ convenience.
i. For Taxpayers already registered on e-filing platform, they can file their returns via In the alternative registered e-filing taxpayers can also file their returns under the other approved platforms listed below as appropriate.
a. Large taxpayers – oil & gas (Upstream) –
b. Large taxpayers – oil & gas (Downstream) –
c. Large taxpayers – oil & gas (Servicing) –
d. Large taxpayers – non oil (financial) –
e. Large taxpayers – non oil (Manufacturing) –
f. Large taxpayers – Abuja –
g. Large taxpayers – Kano –
h. large taxpayers – Ibadan –
i. Large taxpayers – Port Harcourt –
j. All Medium taxpayers –
k. All Small and Micro taxpayers –
l. All Government Business taxpayers –
m. All Stamp Duty taxpayers –

It is important to note that the above platforms for e-filing are only available to taxpayers previously registered for e-filing in any FIRS Office. Furthermore, communication with the FIRS could be done via FIRS Contact Centre on
0909 74444444 or 0909 71111111 or via electronic mail. With these measures put in pace, taxpayers need not be physically present
at the various offices of FIRS to comply with tax obligations, especially since most state government are beginning to enforce the “stay at home order”.

3. Observance of Social Distancing Measures
In line with the globally recommended social distancing rules and other preventive measures, FIRS has also within this period put in place the following rules at their offices, where physical contact is unavoidable:
a. All meetings with taxpayers are limited to no more than ten (10) people at a time
b. Temperature measuring devices: The temperature of taxpayers seeking access to any of the offices of FIRS will be measured by trained experts, and any person whose temperature is higher than 37.5°C may be denied access to FIRS offices.
c. Hand Sanitizers: FIRS has also provided hand sanitizers in its various offices and it is expected that taxpayers, staffs, and the general public make use of this when engaging in any activity at FIRS offices
d. Hand Washing Equipment: Bowls, clean water and soap are also made available to ensure that anyone visiting any of the FIRS offices maintains a clean hand and hygiene
e. Face Masks: Staff of the FIRS are also provided with face masks, gloves and other protective gears while on duty to curtail the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

As can be seen from the above, most, if not all the measures taken by FIRS is in ensuring convenience in paying taxes and extension of timelines within which taxpayers are to comply with tax obligations and not necessarily grant of any tax relief or concessions. We expect that in the near future, FIRS might grant tax concessions especially since most businesses have closed shop or been impacted during this pandemic. However, this would be subject to the powers granted by their enabling laws. Also, following the “stay at home order” by most state governments, we envisage that FIRS might altogether, in compliance with directives from relevant government agencies, begin to comply with the order, completely close their offices and move most of their operations online. Whether FIRS’
infrastructure for online transaction is adequate, effective or robust enough to serve the teeming Nigerian population would be mystery to unfold in the coming days.

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