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By Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS, Aug 2 (Reuters) – MTN Nigeria has asked a Nigerian tax tribunal to rule on whether the company should pay corporate tax on a 330 billion naira ($1.1 billion) fine, a spokesman for the telecoms company said.
MTN Nigeria, part of South Africa’s MTN Group, was originally fined 1.04 trillion naira for failing to deactivate more than 5 million unregistered SIM cards, but it negotiated a reduced fine to clear its path to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange earlier this year.
MTN Nigeria said it had requested the judicial review after the Nigerian tax authority, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), disagreed with the company’s accounting treatment of the fine as an operating cost.
“We believe that the fine should be treated as part of cost of running the business but the FIRS thinks otherwise,” MTN Nigeria’s spokesman said.
“We’ve paid everything to the FIRS then we went to the tribunal and because the case is with the tax tribunal the government can’t access the money.”
Nigeria’s tax service was not immediately available for comment.
The MTN spokesman said the group was waiting for the tribunal’s decision, which could set a precedent for how penalties are treated by companies registered in Nigeria.
The telecoms company listed its shares on the Nigerian stock market in May in a floatation that valued it at $6.5 billion, turning it into the second biggest company on the exchange.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, with 58 million users in 2018 and it accounts for a third of the South African group’s core profit.
$1 = 305.85 naira
Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alexis
Akwagyiram/Mark Potter/Jane Merriman