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Understanding Tax Implications for Freelancers in Nigeria

Last Updated on July 25, 2023


Freelancing is a form of self-employment where an individual provides services to clients on a project-by-project basis.

Freelancers are not employees of their clients and are responsible for their own taxes, among other things.

Being a freelancer in Nigeria requires understanding the tax implications associated with self-employment.

Understanding Tax Implications as a Freelancer in Nigeria

Understanding the tax implications as a freelancer in Nigeria is of utmost importance and cannot be overstated.

Government requires freelancers to pay income tax on their earnings, similar to regular employees. Failure to comply with tax laws can result in penalties and fines.

It is necessary to register for the Tax Identification Number (TIN) as a freelancer in Nigeria. The TIN enables freelancers to file their tax returns and avoid issues with the tax authorities.

Furthermore, tax authorities mandate freelancers to maintain precise records of their income and expenses for timely submission.

In addition to income tax, freelancers may also be liable to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on their services if their income exceeds the prescribed threshold.

VAT is currently set at 7.5% in Nigeria. It is essential to note that freelancers can also reclaim VAT on expenses incurred while providing their services.

Basically, understanding tax implications as a freelancer in Nigeria is crucial to avoid running afoul of the tax authorities, incurring penalties and fines.

Registering for a TIN and keeping accurate records of income and expenses is essential for freelancers.

Freelancers can contribute to the country’s development and enjoy self-employment benefits by complying with tax laws.

Types of taxes freelancers in Nigeria should be aware of

As a freelancer in Nigeria, it is important to understand the different types of taxes that you may be responsible for paying.

Here are the four main types:

Personal Income Tax

Freelancers in Nigeria are subject to personal income tax. This tax is based on a progressive tax system, which means that the more income you earn, the higher your tax rate.

Personal income tax is paid to the state where you live or where your business is registered. The tax rate ranges from 1% to 24%, depending on your income level.

As a freelancer, it is important to keep accurate records of your income and expenses so that you can calculate your taxable income correctly.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Governments impose Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services at every production and distribution stage.

If your annual turnover exceeds N5m as a freelancer, you must register for VAT.

The standard VAT rate in Nigeria is 7.5%, but there are some goods and services that are exempt from VAT, such as medical services and basic food items.

If your business is VAT-registered, you must regularly charge and remit VAT on your goods and services to FIRS.

Withholding Tax

Clients or customers deduct withholding tax at the source from payments made to freelancers.

The rate of withholding tax is currently 5% for individuals and 10% for companies. The freelancer deducts this tax from the total invoiced amount and receives the remaining balance as payment.

The client deducts the amount and remits it to the tax authorities on behalf of the freelancer.

As a freelancer, you will need to be aware of which payments are subject to withholding tax and ensure that you receive the correct net amount after tax.

Company Income Tax (CIT)

If you operate your freelance business as a company, you will be subject to company income tax.

The rate of CIT in Nigeria is 30%, and it is payable on the profits of the company. Profits, in this case, refer to the income earned from all sources, including outside Nigeria.

The CIT is paid annually to the FIRS after the tax return has been filed and audited.

In a nutshell, as a freelancer in Nigeria, it is important to be aware of these different types of taxes and ensure that you comply with the tax laws.

Failure to do so can result in penalties and fines, which can be detrimental to your business.

Keeping accurate records of your income and expenses is key to ensuring that you can calculate your tax liability correctly.

It is also advisable to consult a tax professional if you are unsure about any aspect of your tax obligations.

Read: Addressing Currency Exchange as a Nigerian Freelancer

Personal Income Tax

As a freelancer in Nigeria, understanding the implications of personal income tax is essential for both compliance and economic sustainability.

Explanation of Personal Income Tax

Governments impose personal income tax on individuals’ income to finance public goods and services like healthcare, education, and security.

It is based on the amount of income earned in a fiscal year, usually from January 1 to December 31.

Who Should Pay Personal Income Tax?

Every individual earning income from employment or self-employment must pay personal income tax.

This includes freelancers, entrepreneurs, and any other self-employed individuals.

How to Register for Personal Income Tax

To register for personal income tax as a freelancer in Nigeria, you will need to visit the nearest Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) office and obtain a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).

You can also register online through the FIRS e-registration portal.

How to Calculate Personal Income Tax

As a freelancer in Nigeria, your required personal income tax depends on the annual taxable income earned.

After deducting allowable expenses like rent, equipment, transportation, and other business-related costs, the taxable income is calculated.

The personal income tax rates for Nigeria are progressive, ranging from 7% for income below ₦300,000 to a maximum of 24% for income above ₦3,000,000.

Additionally, there is a mandatory 1% contribution to the Education Tax Fund (ETF) on all taxable income.

Deadlines for Submission and Payment

Freelancers in Nigeria must file their personal income tax returns by March 31st after each fiscal year.

Taxpayers can either pay their personal income tax liability in full or in installments by the end of June the following fiscal year.

All in all, freelancing in Nigeria comes with a responsibility to comply with the tax laws and regulations of the country.

Understanding personal income tax and its implications will not only promote compliance but ensure financial sustainability in the long run.

Read: Exploring Payment Platforms for Freelancers in Nigeria

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Explanation of VAT

The government levies Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services, taxing the value added at each production and distribution stage.

It is a tax on the difference between the cost of inputs and the cost of outputs (sales). The seller or service provider collects VAT from the final consumer and remits it to the government.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) collects VAT as an indirect tax on behalf of the government.

Who should register for VAT?

The FIRS requires all individuals and businesses with an annual turnover of ₦5 million or more to register for VAT.

This includes freelancers who provide taxable services. Registration for VAT is mandatory and failure to register can result in penalties and fines.

How to register for VAT

Freelancers must complete the FIRS VAT registration form, available on the FIRS website or any FIRS office.

Submit the completed form and supporting documents (freelancer’s CAC certificate, TIN certificate, and business account bank statement) to the nearest FIRS Tax Office.

Upon submission of the application, the authorities will issue a VAT Registration Certificate valid for two years.

Rates of VAT

The current rate of VAT in Nigeria is 7.5%. This rate was increased from 5% to 7.5% in February 2020.

The FIRS may also grant exemptions or zero-rate VAT on certain goods and services.

However, freelancers should note that they cannot charge VAT until they have been issued with a VAT Registration Certificate.

Deadlines for Submission and Payment

Freelancers must file their VAT returns and make monthly payments to the FIRS.

Taxpayers must file VAT returns on or before the 21st day of the month following the transaction.

In the month of July, if a freelancer provided a taxable service, they must submit their VAT return and payment by the 21st of August.

Failure to file VAT returns and make payments on time may result in penalties and interest charges.

In essence, VAT is an important tax that freelancers should be aware of and comply with to avoid penalties and fines.

Freelancers should ensure they register for VAT and file their VAT returns and make payments on time.

Read: Guide to Setting Competitive Freelance Rates in Nigeria

Understanding Tax Implications for Freelancers in Nigeria

Withholding Tax

As a freelancer in Nigeria, it is important to understand the concept of withholding tax.

Here, we will break down what withholding tax is, who should pay it, the rates of withholding tax, how to calculate it, and the deadlines for submission and payment.

Explanation of Withholding Tax

One person deducts withholding tax at the source from payments made to another person.

The person making the payment withholds the tax and remits it to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on the recipient’s behalf.

Who Should Pay Withholding Tax?

Anyone who makes payments for goods, services, or rent is required to withhold tax. This includes businesses, individuals, and government agencies.

If you’re a freelancer in Nigeria, clients must withhold tax from your payment when you receive income.

Rates of Withholding Tax

The rate of withholding tax varies depending on the type of payment. The usual rate for payment to a freelancer is 10%, while payment for rent is 10% or 15%.

The rate for payment to a non-resident is 15%, and payment for technical services is 10% or 7.5% depending on the nature of the service.

How to Calculate Withholding Tax

To calculate withholding tax, identify the payment amount and the applicable tax rate. Multiply the payment amount by the tax rate and deduct the tax amount from the payment.

The amount deducted is remitted to the FIRS while the balance is paid to the beneficiary.

Deadlines for Submission and Payment

Deadlines for submission and payment of withholding tax depend on the frequency of payment.

For monthly payments, submit and pay by the 10th day of the following month.

If the payment is made quarterly, the deadline is the 15th day after the end of the quarter. For annual payments, the deadline is the 31st day of January of the following year.

Understanding the tax implications of being a freelancer in Nigeria is essential to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.

Familiarize yourself with the concept of withholding tax, who should pay it, the rates and how to calculate it, and the deadlines for submission and payment.

If you have any questions or require further clarification, it is advisable to consult a tax professional.

Read: Freelancer’s Guide: Making Use of Nigerian Digital Trends

Company Income Tax (CIT)

Explanation of CIT

  • CIT is a tax paid on the profits of a company.

  • The tax is based on the company’s chargeable profits.

  • It is regulated under the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) 2004.

  • All registered companies in Nigeria are liable to pay CIT.

Who should pay CIT?

  • All registered companies in Nigeria are liable to pay CIT.

  • Companies that are not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission are not eligible.

How to register for CIT

  • Register your company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

  • Apply for a Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

  • Fill the CIT registration form and submit to FIRS.

  • Upon approval, you will receive a CIT registration certificate.

Rates of CIT

  • The standard CIT rate is 30% of chargeable profits.

  • Companies with turnover of less than N25 million are eligible for a reduced rate of 20%.

  • Companies in the agricultural sector and those involved in gas utilisation are taxed at 20%.

  • New companies are eligible for a tax holiday for the first three years of operation.

How to calculate CIT

  • Start by calculating the company’s chargeable profits by deducting allowable expenses from gross profit.

  • Apply the appropriate tax rate to the chargeable profits.

  • File your company’s tax returns with FIRS.

Deadlines for submission and payment

  • Companies should file CIT returns with FIRS within 6 months of their accounting year’s end.

  • Taxpayers must pay their taxes within 90 days after submitting the CIT returns to FIRS.

As a freelancer in Nigeria, it is important to understand the tax implications of running a company.

The CIT is a tax that must be paid by registered companies in Nigeria on their profits.

The standard tax rate is 30%, but there are exceptions for companies with turnover less than N25 million, those in the agricultural sector, and those involved in gas utilization.

Calculate CIT based on a company’s chargeable profits, and apply the applicable tax rate accordingly.

Freelancers who choose to register their companies must file CIT returns with the FIRS within six months of their accounting year-end and pay taxes within 90 days of filing returns.

Read: Freelancers: How to Negotiate in the Nigerian Market

Tax Incentives for Freelancers in Nigeria

As a freelancer in Nigeria, paying taxes is an essential responsibility that cannot be overlooked.

Although it might seem daunting at first, it is essential to understand the tax implications for freelancers and take advantage of available tax incentives.

Tax Relief for Research and Development (R&D)

Freelancers engaged in research and development activities can enjoy tax relief of up to 125% on qualifying expenses such as equipment, software, and related materials.

To claim this tax relief, freelancers must register with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).

Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Freelancers who invest in qualifying assets for their business can claim investment tax credits up to 10% of the cost of those assets.

The assets must be new and used solely for business purposes to be eligible. This tax incentive is available for both individuals and companies.

Pioneer Status Incentive (PSI)

The Pioneer Status Incentive is a tax holiday that grants tax relief for a maximum of five years to companies or individuals who invest in certain industries such as agriculture, solid minerals, and information technology.

To be eligible, the freelancer must register with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and provide proof that their business engages in pioneer activities.

There are other tax incentives available to freelancers in Nigeria, such as capital allowances on qualifying expenses, VAT rebates for exporters, and tax deductions for donations made to approved charitable organizations.

It is crucial to understand these incentives and take advantage of them to reduce tax liabilities.

Most importantly, paying taxes is a necessary part of a thriving economy, and freelancers in Nigeria must be aware of the tax implications for their business activities.

Tax incentives such as research and development tax relief, investment tax credits, and pioneer status incentives are available to freelancers to help mitigate their tax liabilities.

Freelancers should explore all available tax incentives and engage the services of a tax expert, if needed, to ensure they are compliant with tax regulations while minimizing their tax liabilities.

Read: How to Use Influencer Marketing as a Freelancer in Nigeria


Recap of the Importance of Understanding Tax Implications for Freelancers in Nigeria

Freelancers in Nigeria must understand how taxation works to avoid paying unnecessary fines and penalties.

It is essential to keep proper records and ensure compliance with tax laws to avoid legal repercussions.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

As a freelancer in Nigeria, you should always consult a tax expert for guidance on tax compliance. Keep accurate records and file your taxes on time to avoid penalties.

Also, take advantage of tax deductions and exemptions to lower your taxable income. Understanding tax implications for freelancers in Nigeria is a crucial aspect of running a successful freelance business.

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