How to pay international contractors in Nigeria


Sep 5, 2023

With over 200 million residents and a rapidly growing tech sector, Nigeria is a hub for innovative and talented contractors. But if you're a global company aiming to tap into this workforce, how can you ensure that you're compensating them correctly while remaining compliant with Nigerian labor laws?

Navigating the regulations can be a bit of a maze, but with the right guidance, you can make Nigerian contractors a seamless part of your international team. Dive into our step-by-step guide below to get a comprehensive understanding of managing and paying contractors compliantly in Nigeria.

Step #1: Classify your workers in Nigeria

Misclassifying workers in Nigeria can lead to severe penalties, including hefty fines and potential legal action. Not all misclassification is intentional though; you might inadvertently bypass critical components of Nigerian law, such as the act that stipulates the rights of full-time employees, which doesn't apply to freelancers. Accordingly, it's crucial to understand the distinction between full-time employees and independent contractors:



High level of worker control. Contractors maintain a high level of control over their work. They also enjoy significant freedom in scheduling.

More direction from the employer. Employees work under the direction and guidance of their employer.

Contractors typically use their own tools and equipment.

Employees often use tools or equipment provided by the company.

Less integrated. Contractors operate independently and often work remotely.

Highly integrated. Employees are integrated into the company's hierarchy and usually work on-site.

No entitlement to benefits. Contractors do not receive the same benefits as employees and handle their own tax responsibilities.

Entitled to benefits. Employees are entitled to a range of benefits, like annual leave, maternity leave, sick leave, and overtime pay.

Time-bound engagement. Contractors’ engagements are often time-bound or project-based.

Indefinite engagement. Employees often enjoy stability through indefinite contracts.

Risk of loss. Contractors shoulder the risk for their work.

No risk of loss. Employees are protected from professional risks by their employer.

Subcontracting. Contractors have the freedom to delegate or subcontract their tasks.

No subcontracting. Employees can't delegate their responsibilities without company approval.

Step #2: Determine the best way to pay your contractors in Nigeria

Paying contractors in Nigeria has its unique challenges due to fluctuating exchange rates and regulations around international transfers. Here are some methods to consider:

  • Bank or wire transfers: Bank transfers are a common payment method used internationally. You can also send a wire transfer via SWIFT to a Nigerian contractor, but it might come with fees and longer processing times.
  • Online payment services: When paying contractors in Nigeria, various online payment services can facilitate the process. You could consider popular platforms like PayPal, TransferWise (now known as Wise), and Payoneer. Or, you could go with a local platform like Flutterwave and Paystack. Keep in mind that PayPal in Nigeria does not allow the receipt of funds; it only allows funds to be sent. Always confirm with your contractor regarding their payment preferences.
  • Global payroll services: Since contractors aren’t typically included in payroll, they usually invoice separately for their services. But with Rippling, you can pay Nigerian contractors and employees in a single pay run—anywhere in the world. 

Step #3: Use global payroll software to process payments for Nigerian contractors 

Global payroll software, like Rippling, can be a game-changer. Not only does it simplify the payment process, but it also ensures that you stay compliant with local laws and regulations:

With Rippling, you can pay employees and contractors, worldwide, in a single pay run. Here’s a preview of Rippling’s global payroll system:

Step #4: Ensure your Nigerian contractor has the right tax information 

When it comes to managing and paying independent contractors in Nigeria, making sure your contractor understands their tax obligations is pivotal. Not only does this ensure your business remains compliant, but it also offers clarity to your contractors about their responsibilities:

  • TIN registration: All contractors in Nigeria need to register for a Tax Identification Number (TIN) with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
  • Issuance of invoices: Contractors must issue valid invoices for services rendered, which will serve as a basis for their income declarations.
  • Income tax filing: Independent contractors in Nigeria are subject to the Personal Income Tax at varying rates, depending on their earnings. They need to declare their earnings and file tax returns annually.
  • VAT obligations: If a contractor provides certain services or goods, they might be required to charge and remit value-added tax (VAT) to the FIRS. Registration for VAT is essential for those who fall under this category.

Frequently asked questions about running payroll for contractors in Nigeria

Do you need to withhold taxes when paying contractors in Nigeria?

No, contractors in Nigeria are responsible for filing and paying their taxes. Employers don't need to withhold taxes for them.

Does the Nigerian minimum wage apply to independent contractors in Nigeria?

No, the minimum wage regulation in Nigeria is designed for full-time employees. Contractors negotiate their rates based on their agreement with the employer.

Do Nigerian contractors get benefits?

Typically, no. Independent contractors handle their benefits, including health insurance and social security, unless otherwise stipulated in their contract.

Can you pay contractors in Nigeria in your home currency?

It's preferable to pay contractors in NGN due to Nigeria's strict foreign exchange regulations. However, some contractors might accept USD or EUR, but it's essential to discuss this upfront.

Can you manually pay contractors in Nigeria?

Yes, though it's less common due to the efficiency and record-keeping advantages of electronic payments.

With Rippling, you can sync all your business’s HR data with payroll and eliminate the need for manual data entry. Contractors and employees can get paid automatically—anywhere around the world. 

How do you turn a contractor into an employee in Nigeria?

Transitioning from a contractor to an employee requires a formal employment contract, ensuring that the worker receives all the benefits and protections under Nigerian law, like maternity leave, annual leave, sick leave, and overtime pay. This might also necessitate a review of their compensation structure.

Rippling helps you effortlessly manage contractors—as well as quickly convert them to full-time employees. Rippling handles all the paperwork, benefits administration, and payroll, so you stay compliant from onboarding to offboarding.

How does the notice period work for contractors in Nigeria?

Unlike full-time employees, contractors operate based on the terms of their agreement. While not required, you can choose to outline a notice period in their contracts.

Is remote work common for Nigerian contractors?

Yes, with the digital boom, many Nigerian freelancers and contractors offer their services remotely, working with both local and international clients.

How do currency exchange rates affect payments to Nigerian contractors?

Given the volatility of the NGN, it's advisable to monitor exchange rates. Unfavorable rates can impact the actual value a contractor receives. 

Do Nigerian contractors commonly accept international payments via PayPal or Wise?

Yes, with Nigeria's expanding digital frontier, many contractors are open to international payment methods such as PayPal and Wise. However, it's always recommended to discuss and finalize the preferred payment method during the contract negotiation phase.

Is English the primary language for contracts in Nigeria?

Yes, English is the official language in Nigeria and is universally used in business contracts, making it easier for international companies to communicate and set terms with Nigerian contractors.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: September 5, 2023

The Author

Carissa Tham

A British Columbia-based tech content strategist and writer, Carissa has lived and worked in Singapore, Taiwan, and Canada. Carissa lends her unique global perspectives to growing Rippling’s brand in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.