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Avoiding common pitfalls for startups and SMEs in Nigeria [Start-up, Tax]

Startup, SME, Tax, Regulatory Obligations, Nigeria, Tax reliefs Tax Deductions, Start-up,


Senior Manager, Tax & Regulatory Services at Deloitte Nigeria.


Business, Law, Leadership, Entrepreneurship. Avoiding common pitfalls for startups and SMEs in Nigeria [Start-up]
Oyemaja; Avoiding common pitfalls for startups and SMEs in Nigeria [Start-up]


Startups and SMEs in Nigeria face varying tax challenges, and avoiding these common pitfalls is essential to ensure compliance and financial stability.

Here are some tips to help startups and SMEs in Nigeria avoid these pitfalls:

  • Register your business: Ensure your startup or SME is properly registered with the appropriate government agencies, such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Also comply with all legal requirements for your business structure (e.g., Limited Liability Company, Business Name, etc.).

  • Separate personal and business finances: Maintain separate bank accounts for your business and personal finances. This separation simplifies bookkeeping and prevents unnecessary scrutiny of the tax authorities.

  • Understand your tax obligations: Familiarize yourself with the specific tax obligations that apply to your startup and SME based on its industry, location, and size. This includes understanding the Value Added Tax (VAT), Company Income Tax (CIT), Personal Income Tax (PIT), and other relevant tax and regulatory obligations.

  • Consider investment incentives: Explore government incentives for startups and SMEs, such as pioneer status tax holidays and other similar exemptions, available in certain industries and locations.

  • Keep accurate records: Maintain thorough financial records, including income, expenses, and receipts. Consider using accounting software to facilitate record-keeping or engage the services of an accounting firm

  • File tax returns as at when due: File your tax returns and make payments on time to avoid penalties and interest charges. Nigeria's tax deadlines can vary, so stay informed about due dates.

  • Claim available reliefs and deductions: Identify all eligible deductions, allowances, and tax credits to minimize your tax liability. Common deductions include income tax exemptions, business expenses, capital allowances, etc

  • Religiously perform your withholding tax obligations: If your startup or SME makes payments subject to withholding tax (e.g., to contractors or suppliers), ensure you deduct the accurate withhold tax and remit same to the relevant tax authority timely.

  • Manage payroll taxes: If you have employees, accurately calculate and remit Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) taxes on their behalf. Ensure to consider employees’ place of residence and available reliefs and deductions.

  • Stay updated on tax laws: In the past 4 years, the Nigerian tax laws have changed significantly. So stay informed about updates and amendments. Consult with tax professionals to ensure compliance.

  • Engage a tax consultant: Consider hiring a tax consultant or accountant with expertise in Nigerian tax laws. We can provide guidance and help you navigate complex tax matters.

  • Maintain good financial practices: Implement sound financial practices within your startup and SME. This includes budgeting, cash flow management, and financial forecasting.

  • Prepare for audits: Be prepared for tax and statutory audits. Maintain organized records and documentation to support your tax filings and financial transactions.

  • Seek tax rulings and clarifications: If you have uncertainties about specific tax matters, seek rulings or clarifications from the relevant tax authorities with the help of your consultant to avoid unnecessary exposure.

  • By all means avoid tax evasion: Always operate within the bounds of the applicable laws and legislations. Avoid any activities that could be interpreted as tax evasion, as this can lead to severe penalties. You can however avoid paying excessive taxes, your consultant will guide you on how to do this without running foul of the law.

Remember that tax compliance is a critical aspect of your business operations. Staying vigilant, informed, and proactive can help startups avoid the common tax pitfalls and build a solid foundation for financial success.


Finally, it is important that you seek the guidance of a professional tax consultant to avoid unnecessary exposures and safeguard stakeholders' funds.




Originally published by Olufunso Ola-Ojo FCA, ACTI on LinkedIn





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