Malami Playing Games on $2bn Tax Arrears, MTN CEO Alleges

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Rob Shuter

Emma Okonji with Agency Report

The Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group, Rob Shuter, has said the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is “playing games” over the federal government’s demand of $2 billion tax arrears from MTN Nigeria.

According to TheCable News, Shuter spoke at a conference call where MTN 2018 annual results were presented to executives and stakeholders of the company.

In September 2018, Malami had written to MTN Nigeria, demanding $2 billion in tax arrears.

The amount was said to cover a 10-year period for import duties, value added tax (VAT) and withholding taxes on foreign imports/payments.

MTN Nigeria had denied any wrongdoing, saying it had fully settled all outstanding taxes.

Reiterating the company’s stance, Shuter described the legal process as “odd,” adding that the justice minister had no right to collect tax on behalf of government.

He said MTN is a responsible company whose tax assessments are in line with the requirements of the relevant authorities.

“I think if you look at our history for complicated tax disputes they can take years, because you end up going through this tribunal, that tribunal,” Shuter said.

“Now, of course, what is odd about the Nigeria situation is that it is not the Commissioner for Inland Revenue that we have the dispute with. It is the Attorney General, who is really not mandated to collect tax.

“So, the legal process is basically saying you are playing a game that you are not meant to be playing. And when we talk to the tax authorities, they have no particular quarrel with where we are with our various assessments.

“So, either we get the thing chucked out early on and the issue is finished, or it is just one of these lingering things that rolls around in the system for a while. And personally, I don’t know which way it is going to play out.

“I am just absolutely adamant that we are a responsible company; we have paid the taxes we had to pay, and the tax authorities are not saying that we owe them anything. So, I think we’ve just got to stare this one down,” Shuter said

MTN’s Chief Financial Officer, Ralph Mupita, had said: “The audit committees of both Nigeria and group, as you can well imagine, have gone through this very thoroughly in terms of all our tax exposures. And it is the second time we’ve looked at this.

“We looked at it at the half year when it was then a tax assessment before the letters came in August.

“But we still believe there isn’t even a remote exposure that we would put in contingent liabilities. But I think it’s important to re-emphasise the point Rob raised.”

The hearing of the suit against the AGF first scheduled for November 8, 2018, had been adjourned to March 26, 2019.