It all started with VAT increase. On February 1, 2020, the Federal Government implemented the increase of Value Added Tax from 5% to 7.5%. It didn’t go down well with many people but it was overlooked because, technically, VAT is not paid for all goods and services obtained. For instance, we don’t pay VAT when we buy goods from our local open markets. So, somehow, we can manage with the increase.
As Nigerians were getting used to seeing 7.5% VAT on invoices, banks landed with their N50 stamp duty on deposits. People wondered what was happening. We checked and learnt that the Federal Government approved the charges, even though it was for transactions above N10,000. But banks deducted the charges even if the money deposited was just N10,000. Well, we swallowed it; after all it is just N50.
But we didn’t know the FG is not done with us yet; they were releasing their lashes one after the other. The VAT increase and imposition of Stamp Duty on electronic and cash deposits into savings and current accounts were just their ways of testing the waters. It was “testing the microphone one-two”. They have more things coming. And the ones that come after each stage will affect more and more people. So they released the next level, this time for almost everyone, especially those that are struggling to breathe. This very monster was released on Wednesday 22 July, 2020.
On Wednesday 22 July, 2020, the Director of Communication and Liaison Dept, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Abdullahi Ahmad, announced that henceforth, landlords and property agents should charge and collect Stamp Duty from tenants, renters and leasees. He made it known that the burden of this tax is on the tenants, renters and/or leasees, as was stated in the Stamp Duty Act.
Of course you must have known how Nigerians reacted to this, especially when the first press release generalised that the tax is 6% on the total sum of rent.
However, on 25th July, 2020, FIRS took to its Twitter page, @firsNigeria, to make clarifications on how Stamp Duty on rent will be paid. According to them, the tax is not 6% flat for all tenancy and lease agreements, as was earlier stated, but for those that will exceed 21 years. Hence, the tax will be charged thus:
- Tenancy/lease of 1 – 7 years = 0.78% (39kobo/N50).
- Tenancy/lease of > 7 years but < 21 years = 3% (N1.50k/N50).
- Tenancy/lease of > 21 years = 6% (N3/N50).
This shows that many Nigerians will be affected by options ‘a’ (residential) and ‘b’ (businesses). Option ‘c’ will, however, affect most companies such as banks and other multinational companies.
Let’s put this simply. What is going to happen from now onwards is that all the landlord’s tenants, shop renters and people that leased houses must pay either 0.78%, 3% or 6% of their rents to the government. These charges are not tax deductible. Whatever your landlord said you should pay as rent, you should pay the applicable percentage of that amount as stamp duty to the government. What is still shady is whether this payment is done once or whether it is renewable. We only found out that we will not pay 6% because of the public outcry.
I don’t know who drafted this law but it is obvious that the person has never known what it takes to live and survive in Nigeria. It is obvious that the people that put this law together have never experienced deprivation. It is obvious that they are not Nigerians. Or rather, they are not Nigerians that grew and lived in Nigeria. If they are, they would have realised the pains they will cause average Nigerians through this tax.
Like I noted earlier, it is unclear whether this tax is renewable. I mean, do we only pay it when we are moving into an apartment? Or is it something the landlord can wake up and say he made some amendments to his tenancy agreement and so all of us should pay stamp duty to make it legal?
Apart from that, why do we pay compulsory legal fees, agent charges, tenement, and what have you, to the landlord and then come back to pay stamp duty to the government so that our agreement will be legal? Are these not extortions? Why won’t the legal fee and the tenement cover up for stamp duty? I am just wondering, anyway.
Then coming to the government imposing tax on people for finding shelter, is the government indirectly telling us that finding a place to sleep is now luxury? Are we not supposed to live in houses anymore? Or did the government provide low-cost houses for us, which we rejected for cosy ones? Why exactly does the government feel that tenants should bear the burden of this tax? We constructed the roads that entered our houses. We clear bushes around them. We take care of our waste disposals. We buy water, electricity, electricity cables, even transformers, we bought all of them. So why should we pay the government for renting a house they did not build? It would have been a different ball game if the government provided housing units for us and decided to collect taxes from those that preferred private ones. But we know such a thing doesn’t exist; at least not in my area.
By the way, that money the government wants us to pay stamp duty from has already been over taxed. We pay income tax from our salaries, which were deducted before we receive the pay. We pay stamp duty when the money is paid into our bank accounts. We pay VAT for household consumables we bought with part of the salary. And then, we still pay stamp duty for rent, from that same salary. Mark that I didn’t mention other charges like electronic transfer charges among others. By the end of the day, you’re left to wonder what is happening. Are we going to kill ourselves paying taxes?
Another thing I am seeing here is that landlords will use the opportunity given by this stamp duty to victimise their tenants. As we are now, most of us condone our landlords and their unsuitable apartments because we can’t afford the extra charges that come with changing apartments. But here, the government is increasing the problems for us. Well, the government should consider regulating rents and attaching laws that will ensure that landlords do not abuse the implementation of this tax. For me, the only way this can happen is for the government to make sure that the landlords bear the burden of this tax. In fact, it should be done in such a way that the higher the rent, the higher the tax (and the tenant must not be forced to pay for it). That will make our landlords that increase rents indiscriminately think twice before adding any kobo to it.
But if the government insists on retaining the status quo, I want them to understand this:
- Rents are not cheap in this country.
- People suffer to pay rents (plus tenement and legal charges).
- Landlords increase rents every year.
- Tenants are not the beneficiaries of rent; we pay to stay out of the weather and to keep ourselves and belongings secured.
- Rent is not luxury.
- Government did not provide housing units for us.
- We provided our own basic and social amenities.
I know the government needs tax to run its ministries but it will not kill the citizens in order to pay its bills. It should place that stamp duty on landlords because they are the ones that will spend the money paid as rent. Besides, that will help to curtail how they increase rents. Honestly, I don’t know why the government is letting off greedy landlords and punishing tenants for crimes they didn’t commit. The burden of stamp duty on rent should not be placed on tenants, renters and leasees.
Let those that made this decision go back and re-evaluate their plans. Nigerians are already passing through a lot; they shouldn’t add more problems to our already existing ones.