AFRICA TAX IN BRIEF
ALGERIA: Tax treaty with the United Kingdom signed
Algeria and the United Kingdom on 18 February 2015 signed an income and capital tax treaty in Algiers.
BOTSWANA: Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act 2015 gazetted
On 23 January 2015, the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act 2015 was published in the Botswana Government Gazette. Material amendments include:
• increasing in the VAT registration threshold from BWP500,00 to BWP1 million; and
• zero rating of brown bread, fresh fruits and vegetables (in natural state), rice (husked, milled, polished, glazed, parboiled or broken), samp (not further prepared/processed), milk (cattle, sheep or goat milk not concentrated, condensed, evaporated, sweetened, flavoured or cultured); and bread flour (white, brown or cultured).
BOTSWANA: 2105/16 Budget presented to Parliament
The 2015/15 Budget was presented to Parliament by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning on 2 February 2015. No new tax amendments were proposed.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO (CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE): 2015 Finance Law adopted by the National Assembly
Finance Law 2015 (Law No. 48-2014 of 31 December 2014), which was adopted by the National Assembly on 22 December 2014 was published in January 2015. The Law introduces further tax amendments in addition to those contained in the Finance Bill. In summary, the following amendments to corporate income tax apply as from 1 January 2015:
• The withholding tax rates provided by both the African and Malagasy Common Organization (Organization Commune Africaine et Malgache, OCAM) Convention and the France – United States Tax Treaty, which were extended and applicable in Congo, cease to apply. Consequently, the applicable withholding tax rate is at 5.75% on income derived from the execution of contracts linked to the Angolan petroleum zone (Zone d'unitization pétrolière avec l'Angola) by individuals or legal entities, service payments to suppliers established within the OCAM area and income derived by non-residents of countries without tax treaties with Congo.
• The derogation regime for oil companies ceases to apply as soon as the turnover derived from oil activities falls below 70%. In such a case, oil companies will be subject to corporate income tax under the regular regime.
COMOROS ISLANDS: Finance Law 2015 published
Decree No. 14-194/PR, implementing Finance Law 2015 (the Law), was published on 16 January 2015. The Law legislates the tax proposals of Finance Bill 2015, published in November 2014, with the following changes:
• income from non-commercial activities is subject to income tax at the rate of 10%;
• income from movable property as defined by article 61 of the General Tax Code (GTC) is subject to income tax at the rate of 10%. The tax is to be withheld by the payer;
• a surtax on business licences is introduced, which applies in addition to business licence duties, and which is to be paid at the same time; and
• a tax on dry cloves, ylang-ylang oil and dry vanilla (taxe sur les produits de rente) is introduced.
DJIBOUTI: Amending Finance Law 2014 published
Amending Finance Law 2014 (Law No. 76/AN/14/7ème) (the Law) was adopted by the National Assembly of Djibouti on 31 December 2014. The main amendments, which are effective retroactively as from 1 January 2015, include:
• the transfer of immovable property is subject to tax at the reduced rate of 10% when the acquirer is a financial company subject to sharia law, buying on behalf of its client. The resale of immovable property by the financial company is exempt from transfer tax (droits de mutation); and
• the introduction of a general solidarity tax (impôt général de solidarité, IGS), which applies on the import of goods by persons without import patent, at the rate of 10% on the goods' value. Such import of goods is still subject, in addition to the IGS, to excise and customs duties, and other taxes and levies that are usually paid on the import of goods.
EGYPT: Tax treaty with Mauritius enters into force
The Egypt / Mauritius income tax treaty, which was signed in 2012, entered in force on 10 March 2014. The treaty generally applies from 1 January 2015 for Egypt and from 1 July 2015 for Mauritius.
GHANA: Internal Revenue (Amendment) Act, 2014 passed by Parliament
The Internal Revenue (Amendment) Act, 2014 was signed by the President on 31 December 2014, having earlier been passed by Parliament (see details regarding the Bill in the ENSafrica February 2015 newsletter). The following measures were added:
• increase in withholding tax rate on commission paid to a resident from 5% to 7.5%; and
• reduction in withholding tax rate on endorsement fees paid to a resident from 10% to 5%.
KENYA: 2015 draft medium-term budget policy statement published
The National Treasury published a draft medium-term budget policy statement, 2015 (the policy statement) on 20 January 2015, which proposes the following measures:
• review of the Income Tax Act to be completed by the end of 2015;
• digitization of revenue collections, enhanced taxpayer recruitment and education programme, strategic tax audit and risk profiling and a simplified tax regime for the informal sector;
• submission for the enactment of two bills on the re-organization of the Kenya Revenue Authority into semi-autonomous but interdependent agencies – the Inland Revenue Agency and the Customs and Border Protection Agency;
• simplification and modernization of business regulatory regimes, rationalization of all regulatory fees and other charges and the establishment of an institutional and legal framework for management of regulatory charges; and
• modernization of the tax laws to rationalize/review the existing tax incentives regime and expand the income tax base.
KENYA: Guidelines for withholding tax on natural resource income published
Following the introduction of withholding tax on natural resource income by the Finance Act 2014 with effect from 1 January 2015, the Kenya Revenue Authority on 20 February 2015 published the following guidelines in respect of such withholding tax:
• ‘Natural Resource Income’ means (a) an amount including a premium or such other like amount paid as consideration for the right to take minerals or a living or non-living resource from land or sea; which covers all natural resource royalties; or (b) an amount calculated in whole or in part by reference to the quantity or value of minerals or a living or non-living resource taken from the sea, which covers all private overriding royalties paid in relation to an exploration or prospecting right.
• Natural resources include, but are not limited to minerals, sand, quarries, fish, timber, etc.
• The person (whether resident or non-resident) making a payment constituting a natural resource income should deduct the withholding tax before making the payment.
• The withholding tax does not apply to payments made to persons who are exempt from income tax;
• Payments to a resident person are subject to withholding tax at the rate of 5% of the gross amount payable, whereas payments to a non-resident person are subject to withholding tax at the rate of 20% of the gross amount payable.
• The tax is due on or before the 20th day of the month following the deduction.
• The tax shall be declared and paid using the withholding tax return available in the iTax system under the income stream “Royalty/Natural Resource Income”.
MAURITIUS: 2015/16 Budget announced
The 2015/16 Mauritius Budget, presented by the Minister of Finance on 23 March 2015, targets a growth rate of 5.3% for 2015/16. Such growth is to be driven by 13 mega projects, including 8 ‘Smart Cities’ and 5 ‘Technopoles’, expansion of the port sector and the promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to create employment, expand Africa and regional partnerships and attract foreign-based Mauritian professionals.
We highlight below some specific tax and economic proposals that may be of interest:
• A range of targeted incentives for SMEs registered with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Act (SMDEA) after 1 June 2015 have been introduced, including:
o an 8 year exemption from corporate income tax;
o an exemption from tax deduction at source for companies with turnover not exceeding MUR6 million;
o a simplified cash-based tax system for income tax and VAT filing; and
o no requirement to submit financial statements and annual returns to the Registrar of Companies.
• The VAT registration threshold has been increased from MUR4 million to MUR6 million, and the turnover threshold for submitting returns under the Advance Payment System (APS) from MUR4 million to MUR10 million.
• Plant and machinery used in the exploration and production of petroleum products are to be exempted from VAT.
• a new Petroleum Bill will shortly be introduced to provide the legal and fiscal framework for exploration and exploitation of hydro-carbon resources in the Mauritius Exclusive Economic Zone.
• The accelerated annual allowances available in respect of electronic and high-precision machinery, manufacturing plant and machinery, scientific research and industrial premises used for manufacturing are to be extended up to 30 June 2018.
• The Freight Rebate Scheme will be extended to other ports in Africa and open to all shipping lines.
• Incentives for “Green” investments include:
o extending the annual allowances in respect of green technology equipment, landscaping and other earthworks for embellishment purposes, introduced for the 2013 and 2014 years, on a permanent basis;
o a tax deduction for the total amount of expenditure incurred on solar energy units by households;
o VAT zero-rating for chilled deep sea water used for the provision of air conditioning services; and
o an exemption from land conversion taxes on land put to use for renewable energy projects.
Banks and Telecommunication
• The special levy on banks will remain at 10% of chargeable income for Segment A activities and 3.4% on book profit and 1% of operating income on Segment B activities until 20 June 2018.
• The solidarity levy of 5% on the book profits and 1.5% on the gross receipts of Telephone Service Providers, which was applicable up to 31 December 2014, is to be extended up to 30 June 2018.
• Interest received by a non-resident company from debentures quoted on the stock exchange will be exempt from income tax.
Personal Income Tax
• In order to encourage the Mauritian diaspora to return to Mauritius, the following incentives have been announced in respect of professionals who have worked abroad for a minimum period of 10 years:
o a 10 year tax exemption on worldwide income; and
o exemption from customs duties of up to MUR2 million on the purchase of a car in or outside of Mauritius, as well as on the relocation of other personal assets.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
• The structure of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) system is to be revised and the CSR guidelines to be removed, with companies now being able to decide on how best to fulfil their social responsibility by allocating 2% of their taxable profits according to their own set of priorities.
• Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), currently levied where a company distributes dividends and its normal tax payable is lower than 7.5% of its adjusted book profit, was suspended for manufacturing companies and hotels for the 2013 and 2014 years. It is proposed that AMT should be removed for all sectors.
• The fiscal year is amended from 31 December to 30 June to coincide with the government’s new financial yearend. As a result, individuals will be required to file a tax return for the six months ending 30 June 2015.
• The amount payable upon objection to an assessment is reduced from 30% to 10% and the Expeditious Dispute Resolution of Tax Scheme (EDRTS) is to be renewed for another year for the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) to consider any amount assessed for taxpayers who could not lodge an objection due to an inability to pay the required portion of tax assessed.
• The interest rate applicable to late payment of taxes is reduced from 1% per month or part thereof to 0.5% and certain penalties for the late submission of returns are also to be reduced.
• The statutory time limit of the MRA to issue an assessment is being reduced from 4 to 3 years.
• Ministries, Government departments, local authorities, statutory bodies and the Rodrigues Regional Assembly are to withhold and remit a percentage of VAT on contracts exceeding MUR300,000 directly to the MRA in an effort to enhance compliance. The percentage to be withheld is still to be confirmed.
• Companies with an accounting yearend of 30 June will be granted the option of either filing their annual tax return by 31 December or pay tax for the last quarter by filing an additional APS return and settle the balance of tax and file their annual return by 31 January of the following year.
NAMIBIA: 2015/16 Budget announced
Namibia’s 2015/16 Budget was read on 31 March 2015. The tax amendments that were previously proposed, were confirmed:
• Reduction of the corporate tax rate for non-mining and non-manufacturing companies from 33% to 32%;
• The first phase of environmental taxes (carbon dioxide emissions on motor vehicles, incandescent light bulbs and motor vehicles) to be introduced;
• Value Added Tax registration threshold to be increased from N$200,000 to N$500,000; and
• Reduction of the withholding tax on services from 25% to 10%.
NIGERIA: Free zone tax free period reviewed
The Nigerian Investment Promotion Centre (NIPC) has initiated a process to review the duration of the tax free period granted to eligible companies under the pioneer status incentive regime.
In terms of the Industrial Development (Income Relief) Act, the tax free period is initially three years, after which compliant companies may apply for a two-year extension. To date, the NIPC has been granting eligible companies pioneer status certificates for a maximum period of five years in the first instance. The NIPC has been writing to some companies enjoying pioneer status to indicate the that tax free duration of the incentive has been reduced to three years. It is not clear if this will be extended to all companies that were granted the five-year pioneer status or only those considered ineligible for the incentive.
NIGERIA: Free Zones Administration Unit established
The Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) has established a Free Zones Tax Administration Unit with effect from 1 January 2015 to act as an interface between free zone enterprises and tax agencies. The Unit will serve as tax collection agent for all tax agencies in the collection of applicable taxes in the free zones, conduct periodic tax audits to ensure compliance, liaise with all tax agencies and obtain tax clearance certificates for employees of free zone enterprises and arbitrate on any tax dispute arising between a free zone enterprise and any tax agency.
NIGERIA: Lagos State reduces land transaction rates
In a bid to encourage home ownership in the Lagos State, the State Governor has signed an executive order reducing, with immediate effect, the following land transaction tax rates:
• Consent fees: from 6% to 1.5%;
• Capital gains tax: from 2% to 0.5%;
• Stamp duty: from 2% to 0.5%; and
• Registration fees: from 3% to 0.5%
NIGERIA: Reduction in withholding tax rates on construction and related activities
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy on 17 December 2014 signed an amendment to the existing Schedule to the Companies Income Tax (Rates etc., of Tax to be Deducted at Source (Withholding Tax)) Amendment Regulations, reducing the withholding tax rate on building,
construction and related activities from 5% to 2.5%, effective from 1 January 2015. An official gazette regarding the amendment was published in January 2015.
Survey, design and delivery services do not qualify for the reduced rate. These services are not clearly defined and it will be necessary for the Tax Authorities to provide guidelines for interpretation.
NIGERIA: Electronic Filing System launched
The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has earlier this year launched their Integrated Tax Administration System. Its features include the online submission of tax returns, electronic tax clearance certificates, validation of Tax Identification Numbers, online correspondence with FIRS, automatic imposition of late filing penalties and interest, automatic allocation of withholding tax credits to taxpayers and electronic tax payments.
The System is to be implemented through a phased approach, starting with taxpayers registered at the large and medium tax offices.
NIGERIA: Treaty with the Republic of Korea enters into force
On 21 March 2015, the tax treaty between Nigeria and the Republic of Korea entered into force. The treaty generally applies from 1 January 2016.
RWANDA: Protocol to treaty with Belgium approved by Belgium
On 13 March 2015, the Belgian Council of Ministers approved the amending protocol, signed on 17 May 2010 to the Belgium – Rwanda Tax Treaty.
SENEGAL: Draft Finance Law 2015 approved by Parliament
The Senegalese Parliament approved the draft Finance Law 2015, which is effective from 1 January 2015, on 9 December 2014. This follows on the adoption of Finance Law 2014 on 27 October 2014, which was introduced retroactively with effect from 1 January 2014.
In terms of Finance Law 2014:
• the cap for the Minimum Tax, which is calculated at 0.5% of the turnover of the preceding year, is increased from XOF5 million to XOF20 million (approximately EUR30,000); and
• telecom operators are subject to a Special Tax which is due quarterly and levied at a rate of 1% on the turnover of the telecom operator less costs incurred in respect of interconnection charges from other operators.
In terms of Finance Law 2015 The Special Contribution on Mining and Quarries (SCMQ), which applies to deliveries in Senegal, as well as the importation and export of cement and certain mineral products are amended to exempt the exportation of cement from SCMQ. Products from mines and quarries are exempt if and when they are used for the production of goods that are subject to SCMQ.
SEYCHELLES: Treaties with Ghana and Singapore ratified by Seychelles
On 18 December 2014, Seychelles ratified the income tax treaties with Ghana and Singapore, by way of Statutory Instrument No. 103 and No. 105 repspectively, as published in the Official Gazette of 22 December 2014.
TOGO: Finance Law 2015 published
Finance Law 2015 (the Law), which was adopted on 31 December 2014, was published on 28 January 2015. Amendments to corporate income tax include:
• extending the list of ‘taxable persons’;
• exempting income derived by economic interest grouping from corporate income tax when it operates according to its status;
• allowing as tax deduction remunerations paid to associate controlling directors or to single shareholders, under the condition that they are payments for effective work and the amounts are not excessive;
• allowing ordinary losses derived during a fiscal year as deductible expenses of the following fiscal year up to the limit of 50% of the total benefit. The remaining losses may be carried forward indefinitely; and
• introducing an apprenticeship credit tax of F.CFA 600,000 per person trained through an apprenticeship contract. The credit is also granted to individuals carrying on a business whenever the above conditions are met.
Amendments to the VAT regime include increasing the registration threshold to F.CFA 50 million of annual turnover. However, traders of goods and services whose annual turnover is below F.CFA 50 million may elect to be assessed for VAT, subject to the approval of the tax administration.
ZIMBABWE: VAT on Tourism Services
In terms of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2015 (promulgated on 16 January 2015), the zero rating for VAT on specified tourism services, including accommodation, which was effective since 1 January 2004, is restricted to the following specified services (excluding accommodation) with effect from 16 January 2016:
• Services provided by operators of a facility designated in terms of the Tourism Act;
• Services provided by owners of any places that provide residential accommodation, with or without meals, to tourists (including but not limited to boarding houses and back-packers’ lodges); and
• Services provided by operators of hunting safaris.
Consequently, with effect from 16 January 2015, the accommodation element of services provided is subject to VAT at 15%.
Celia Becker: Executive – Africa Business Intelligence
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