Manning and crewing agents have vehemently denied allegations suggesting that seafarers under their employment are subjected to payment of personal income tax. This denial comes as a response to recent claims that have sparked debates and raised questions about the taxation status of seafarers within the industry.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) had in a recent commemoration of the 2023 Seafarer’s Day called on the government to look into tax exemption and effective enforcement of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for Nigerian seafarers.
The National President of the association, Engr. Bob Yousuo noted that some of the challenges faced by Nigerian seafarers include poor remuneration, personal income tax, and delay in the payment of their wages amongst others.
Engr Yousuo called on the government to look into ensuring the CBA is signed and adhered to by ship owners and most importantly the exemption for Nigerian seafarers from paying tax, adding that they hardly enjoy the socio amenities on ground as most of their time is spent at sea.
However, in an interview with our correspondent, the Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Deep Services Limited, a crewing and manning agency, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy explained that seafarers employed in her organisation are not subjected to personal income tax.
Mrs. Rollens Macfoy, a specialist in Cabotage and Maritime Labour who according to her oversees a workforce of over 70 seafarers, clarified that none of the seafarers under her employment is mandated to pay income tax. She however added that, those who pay voluntarily choose to register with the Lagos State Tax Office or the Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) and obtain their Tax Identification Card.
Macfoy further informed that Manning and Crewing agencies do not include tax payments when tabulating the salaries of seafarers. She noted that they only include union dues, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSIFT) and Pension.
In her words: “To the best of my knowledge, no seafarer is being taxed except they are paying personal income tax on their own. This is my domain, and this is where my authority lies. I have currently employed over 70 seafarers and we have not taxed any of them. I am not aware that they pay taxes. We don’t include tax when tabulating their salaries. We only do union dues, NSITF, and Pension.
“None of them is paying tax, except they decided to take themselves to probably to the Lagos state Tax Office or LIRS and take their Inland Tax card because very soon it will get to a stage in Lagos state where if you don’t have that Tax card, you won’t be able to do anything. Except they did that personally, but it is not mandatory for them. In the last 20 years that I have been in this industry, and I am saying authoritatively that it has never been done”, Macfoy stressed.
On his part, a foremost seafarer and master mariner; Captain Williams Ogunsakin highlighted the unique status of seafarers as essential workers globally, noting that no country imposes taxes on seafarers.
Ogunsakin expressed confusion over the recent taxation policies in Nigeria, citing the era of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) when seafarers were not subjected to taxation. He stressed that tax payment by seafarers started when Manning and Crewing agents were introduced into the system.
Citing his personal experience in a company where he had worked, the seafarer informed that company deducted taxes from the crew’s wages. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that the company had failed to remit the deducted taxes to the appropriate authorities. This raised questions about whether the crew members were indeed required to pay these taxes or if the company was manipulating the situation indicating a lack of transparency in the tax collection process.
“From my years’ experience as a seafarer, no country taxes seafarers because we are essential workers. I don’t understand what is happening in Nigeria because when we do international trade during the time of NNSL we were not taxed because where are you going to collect the tax? Is it in Nigeria or the UK or where?
“There was a company where I worked where they deducted tax from us and the matter got to court. We went to the tax office for investigation and we realised they have not been remitting the tax. The tax to be paid is the company’s tax, but they had been spreading the tax they were supposed to pay on all their crew. Can we say the crew is paying tax or the company is just trying to be smart? This is a life experience.
“Even none of the crew has tax clearance. The tax is not always necessary but they are taking it. The one bothering all seafarers is pension. 50 per cent we really need to clarify the issue of Tax and Pension for seafarers to make the people who are working to enjoy their job” Ogunsakin concluded.