‘Tax Appeal Tribunal has power over disputes’
The Court of Appeal has affirmed that the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) has the jurisdiction to determine tax disputes and adjudicate over tax related matters.
The decision followed appeals, which arose from disputes over petroleum profits tax and tertiary education tax assessments issued to the CNOOC Exploration & Production Nigeria Ltd and TAT, who are the appellants, by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
In the course of resolving the disputes, TAT made orders joining the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as a party to its suit.
However, NNPC objected to the orders joining it as a party and also challenged the jurisdiction of the TAT to hear the disputes on the ground that the subject matter of the dispute was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
The TAT nonetheless ruled that it had jurisdiction to determine the disputes but struck out NNPC as a party. Unsatisfied, NNPC went on to appeal at the Federal High Court against the rulings of the TAT striking it out as a party, contending that the TAT did not have jurisdiction to determine such matters as they are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.
In its ruling, the Federal High Court agreed with NNPC’s arguments and held that the TAT lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine tax disputes in view of Section 251(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Dissatisfied with the judgments of the Court, the appellants represented by its counsel, AdedapoTunde-Olowu further appealed to the Court of Appeal in appeal Nos CA/L/1144/2015 and CA/L/1145/2015, arguing that the TAT’s jurisdiction to determine tax disputes did not infringe upon the exclusive jurisdiction of the high court.
The appellants explained that institution of tax appeals at the TAT before approaching the Federal High Court was merely a condition precedent to approaching the Court and that in any event, the decisions of the TAT could be reviewed and quashed by the Court upon an application for judicial review or appeal to that Court.
The Court of Appeal consequently agreed with the appellants’ arguments and affirmed that the TAT has jurisdiction to adjudicate over tax related disputes.