The confusion over the implementation date of the finance law deepened on Tuesday as the Presidency and the Ministry of Finance expressed differing opinions. The Presidency said the Finance Act which the President, Muhammadu Buhari signed into law on Monday had already taken effect and the implementation of its provisions was expected to be immediate.
The Ministry of Finance said that the take-off date for the implementation of the law would be announced in due course. It was learnt that the Federal Government would meet with chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks on the modalities for the implementation of the Finance Act.
The Presidency made the clarification amidst reports that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation would need to gazette the law, which heralds a new regime of Value Added Tax of 7.5 per cent, up from five per cent, before it could become effective.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in an interview with our correspondent, said the law had automatically become effective immediately the President signed it. Shehu said although there were what he called “records and administrative processes” involved, the processes were not preconditions for the law to take effect. The presidential spokesman said, “The Finance Act, having been signed into law by the President, has taken effect automatically.
“There is no other formal process needed. The law is in effect. There can be records and administrative processes involved, but they are not preconditions for the law to take effect.”
When asked specifically if the law had taken immediate effect, Shehu replied, “It is. It has taken effect.”
On the other, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, made her position known in a statement issued by her Media Adviser, Yunusa Abdullahi. The statement read in part, “On the implementation process of the law, Ahmed has said that she will issue a statement in due course.”
The minister said that a large sum of money realised from the increase in Value Added Tax would go to the states and the local governments’ areas. She described the 2020 Finance Act as a people’s bill considering the expansion of VAT exemption list which includes basic food items. Ahmed commended the President for ensuring that the bill became law.
She said, “The strategic objectives in the finance bill recognise the crucial relationship between fiscal policy, the regulatory environment and the strong capital market we all seek to effect in Nigeria.”
Top officials in the ministry of finance confided in one of our correspondents that not all aspects of the bill would be implemented immediately. The official who preferred not to be named as he was not officially permitted to speak on the matter said that officials from the ministry of finance and the Federal Inland Revenue Service would meet with bank executives to fine-tune strategies on how the aspect that related to the Tax Identification Number for opening of bank accounts would be implemented.
The Act has introduced a requirement for banks to obtain TIN from customers of banks as a pre-condition for opening or maintaining bank accounts. The source said the Finance Act had about 80 modifications, noting that many of the amendments were meant to improve the business environment especially the small and medium scale businesses.
The source said, “Now that the Finance Act has been signed into law by the President, we can now start to plan modalities for its implementation. If you look at the bill, there were over 80 modifications with each of these amendments addressing various issues relating to taxation and revenue generation.
“Some of these modifications are contentious while others are not. If you look at the aspect of TIN for account opening, we cannot just wake up and start implementing that aspect without engaging the relevant stakeholders in the banking sector on the modalities for implementation. We are yet to receive the signed version of the Act but once we do, we will start engaging relevant stakeholders to inform them on how the law will be implemented.”
The Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Finance, Abdullahi, when contacted on the implementation date for the Finance Act, said that the ministry had yet to receive the signed version of the Finance Act. He said, “We will need to hold on a bit because the minister will have to look at the details of what the President has signed and then we will have a formal announcement on it.
“It was just signed yesterday (Monday) and the minister will need to get a clean copy. And when we have a clean copy, then that decision (of implementation) will be taken. We are still waiting for the clean copy.”