BusinessDay

Nigerian govt apologises, says mandated self-certification form does not apply to all account holders

…as earlier notice upsets Nigerians …It’s in connection with commencement of automatic exchange of taxpayers’ information – Expert

The Federal Government of Nigeria may have just realised how worried and upset citizens have become following its notice on Thursday requiring bank account holders to go fill a self-certification form in their banks.

The government apologised on Friday morning for what it described as “misleading tweets”, explaining that the notice does not apply to everybody.

In a notice on its Twitter handle on Thursday, the government had said “all account holders in Financial Institutions (Banks, Insurance Companies, etc) are required to obtain, complete and submit Self-Certification Forms to their respective Financial Institutions”.

It said persons holding accounts in different financial institutions are “required to complete & submit the form to each one of the institutions. The forms are required by the relevant financial institutions to carry out due diligence procedures in line with the Income Tax Regulations 2019” and that “Failure to comply with the requirement to administer or execute this form attracts sanctions which may include monetary penalty or inability to operate the account”.

But on Friday morning, following outrage by Nigerians, the government said it has deleted the earlier tweets which it described as “misleading”.

“We apologize for the misleading tweets (now deleted) that went up yesterday, regarding the completion of self-certification forms by Reportable Persons. The message contained in the @firsNigeria Notice does not apply to everybody,” the FG tweeted.

“FIRS will issue appropriate clarification shortly,” it said.

Meanwhile, Olufemi Fadairo, head, Industry Security Services and Fraud Management, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems, explained that the self-certification requirement is “not for ALL bank account holders”.

“It’s for entities (persons or corporates) who have presence in more than one country. Eg, Nigerians in diaspora, diasporans in Nigeria. It’s towards an international agreement that Nigeria has signed that allows exchange of tax information between countries. This international agreement would help to curb tax evasion by citizens of member countries,” Fadairo said.

“It also applies to Nigerians who have foreign businesses and foreigners who have Nigerian businesses (once you have 10 percent shares of any such business). People who have dual citizenship are also affected by the policy.

“If you fall under the bracket of the policy, you don’t need to physically go into a bank to make the registration, just download the forms online (it’s 3 pages), fill it, and send to your bank by email. If you don’t fall into these above categories (broadly), you are largely not affected,” he said.

Taiwo Oyedele, West Africa tax leader, PwC Nigeria, also explained that the directive “is in connection with the commencement of automatic exchange of taxpayers’ information between Nigeria with other countries”.

“The information required is to enable reporting financial institutions determine the tax residency of their customers to know which countries to share your information with,” Oyedele said.

“In the case of corporate accounts, the exercise is required to determine the beneficial ownership and control also for reporting purposes. The FIRS has earlier shared communications with taxpayers regarding the commencement of exchange of information with other countries,” he said.

Nigeria has since commenced automatic exchange of taxpayer information. The FIRS had shared communications with taxpayers regarding the commencement of exchange of information with other countries.

“We are delighted to inform you that the AEOI-CRS System Portal has gone Live! All Reporting Financial Institutions are expected to file reports on or before 30th September 2020. The designated official of each Financial Institution is required to enroll on the AEOI-CRS System Portal, as a Primary user, to enable the Financial Institution, file its CRS reports,” the communication reads.

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