Merchants Upgrade POS Machines To Automatically Charge N50 Stamp Duty
Merchants in some of Nigeria’s largest retail outlets have started including the N50 stamp duty in their POS machines automatically. This follows the widespread adoption of the N50 charge on customers seeking to pay their bills using debit cards.
Over the weekend, NAIRAMETRICS visited some retail outlets and confirmed that POS machines now have an upgrade that automatically charges N50 for transactions above N1,000. Some merchant operators explained that the move was necessary to avoid the occasional backlash that comes with seeking customer consents before adding the charge manually during POS payments. Most filling stations in Lagos, including large supermarkets such as SPAR, Grand Square already charge their customers the stamp duties of N50 per completed set of transactions paid using the POS. SPAR already automatically includes the N50 stamp duty in their POS, charging the customers directly without having to inform them. Unsuspecting customers may not even notice the charge, as it appears towards the end of the bill. Last September, a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) circular mandated merchants to remit the statutory N50 charge on every POS transaction deposited into merchant accounts provided it exceeds N1,000.
In the new circular, the CBN revealed that banks would unbundle merchant settlement amounts and charge applicable taxes and duties on individual transactions as stipulated by regulations. This was essentially a tax on each transaction done via POS channels. It also instructed that merchant service charge has been reviewed downwards from 0.75% capped at N1,200, to 0.5% capped at N1000. Since the circular was passed, most merchants have had no choice but to charge back the tax on their customers, believing that the convenience of a POS transaction is for the customers and not them. Some merchants, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, also explained that the attendant cost of the tax was high for most of them to bear and this is the reason they pass it to the customers. A supermarket owner complained bitterly that they would have ended up paying over N2 million monthly on stamp duty tax emanating from POS transactions alone. Petrol station owners also explained to our analysts that there was no way they could bear the costs, considering the volume of transactions they handle daily and how thin the margins are for them. What this means: The financial cost of stamp duties collected since the circular was released is yet to be released officially, but analysts believe it could run into billions. However, if this tax continues, it could have negative consequences for the CBN’s cashless policy plans.
A cross-section of Nigerians on social media insist on paying cash rather than giving up N50, even if it means withdrawing cash from the ATM. Whilst most of the merchants report that POS transactions haven’t been severely impacted, they have also seen a rise in payment via cash by most customers. Most customers are unaware of the charge and may not react as negatively if their consent was sought before charging them the tax. This could perhaps be the norm as more Payment Service Providers (PTSP) will upgrade their POS machines to allow merchants automatically charge the N50 stamp duty tax from their customers. If the apex bank discourages cash-based transactions, and at the same time imposes multiple charges to electronic-based transactions, it may be running the risk of policy inconsistency, capable of aggravating the already tensed ease of doing business environment in the country. NAIRAMETRICS, however, understands that the government is also monitoring the impact of the charge and might not reverse the circular, especially if Nigerians get used to it. A government official with knowledge of the matter informed NAIRAMETRICS that there are current moves by the Ministry of Finance to soften the effect of the tax. According to the source, who also pleaded anonymity, the tax will not be rescinded, but the transaction limit on POS might be increased.