Stamp duties are taxes levied on instruments executed by both companies and individuals. The duty rates vary depending on the types of instruments or nature of transactions and these may be flat charges or ad valorem charges (i.e. percentage of the value of the transaction). Stamp duties are payable on instruments such as tenancy agreements, bills of exchange, promissory notes, receipts, transfer agreements, mortgage, insurance policies, share capital, guarantees amongst others.
The Federal Government is the only competent authority empowered to impose, charge and collect duties on eligible instruments if such instruments relate to matters executed between a company and an individual, group or body of individuals. State Governments are empowered to collect duties in respect of eligible instruments executed between persons or individuals.
How do stamp duties relate to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and what are the implications of compliance?
It is necessary to understand that stamp duty provides legal protection over landed properties and interests in land generally. It is one of the steps in perfecting legal title to a property. Without stamping, an owner’s title to property is merely equitable and not completely secured.
Paying stamp duties brings such transactions under the radar of the Nigerian legal system and makes such instruments admissible in court as evidence. If an agreement is not stamped, a litigant cannot present it as evidence of his / her interest in court.
Stamp duties serve as a source of revenue for the government, which is an important resource used in improving the economic environment for MSMEs and businesses generally in Nigeria.
Instruments should be stamped on the date of first execution in Nigeria or before its first execution. Failure to stamp on or before its first execution attracts a penalty of 10% and an interest of 19% per annum. Where an instrument has already been executed, but has not been stamped or is insufficiently stamped, the instrument may be stamped at any time within forty days from the first execution thereof.
The Federal Inland Revenue Service has made efforts to make payment of stamp duties easier and seamless for taxpayers by implementing an online platform E-Stamp Duty, which enables taxpayers pay stamp duty from anywhere and at any time. With an increased drive for increased revenue, it is imperative for MSMEs to ensure compliance with stamp duty provisions to ensure maximum protection under the law.