The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has asked for a court order compelling Acorn Petroleum company to pay to it over N226m it owes in outstanding tax liabilities and another N10million as the cost of its counterclaim. 

The prayer is contained in a counterclaim filed by the tax authority before a Federal High Court in Lagos, against the claim of Acorn Petroleum PLC. 

The counter claim of the FIRS arose from the claim of Acorn Petroleum company filed before the court. While admitting not denying owing or being in arrears of tax payment, the company urged the court to order FIRS to allow the company to pay its tax liability in instalments and in the most convenient manner.  

In its claim filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer Eubena Amedu, the company alleged that on 6th of March, 2014 it received several demand letters from FIRS relating to re-assessed tax liabilities computed by FIRS in respect of Withholding tax in the sum of N72,214,837.04; Value Added Tax in the sum of N65,430,167.66; Companies income tax in the sum of N92,767,318.03; and Education tax in the sum of N 20,430,466.33. 

Thereafter the company paid N20million and made a proposal to pay the balance by installments but the FIRS refused.  Instead, the company received a demand letter dated 20th of November, 2015 ordering it to pay up within seven days or face all the sanctions prescribed by the tax laws of Nigeria, including prosecution.  

Consequently, the company is urging the court to restrain the FIRS and its agents from carrying out that threat of enforcement.  

In its statement of defence filed before the court by Barrister Jerome Okoro, FIRS averred that Acorn Petroleum, by its tax defaults, incurred penalties and interest as reflected in the notices of Assessment for Company Income Tax, Education Tax, Value added tax and withholding tax issued on 6th March 2014. It said the company had been defaulting in the discharge of its tax obligations since 2011, as a result of which its proposal for instalments payment was unacceptable to the tax authority.  FIRS therefore demanded that the tax liabilities be liquidated in three monthly instalments, which Acorn Petroleum failed to do. 

FIRS further contended that failure to pay the tax within a period of one month is an offence attracting prosecution of the defaulting taxpayer by the defendant. It described the suit of Acorn Petroleum as “baseless, frivolous, vexatious and merely a time-wasting scheme calculated to delay the company's discharge of its lawful obligation to pay tax,” and asked for it to be dismissed.  

The presiding judge, Saliu Saidu, adjourned the hearing of the suit until after the court vacation.


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