The parliament last month passed the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2018 that introduced a levy of 200 shillings ($0.05) per day for access to a range of online services. Some platforms affected by the tax include Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, YouTube, Skype, Yahoo Messenger.
Cabinet revises mobile money tax
Following a cabinet meeting held on Monday, the information and ICT minister, Frank Tumwebaze told journalists that government had responded to calls from the public to make the tax ‘fair’.
“Cabinet approved the amendment of the Excise Duty Act …reducing the tax payable on mobile money tax from 1% to 0.5% on withdrawals only,” said the Minister while addressing press at the Uganda Media centre.
New taxes criticised by Ugandans
The taxes, implemented by telecommunications companies since July 1, have been widely criticised and resisted by Uganda’s youthful population, human rights activists and economic analysts.
The taxes have been legally challenged, and were at the center of protests last week led by legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
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The country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has since issued several statements defending the levy of a social media tax, but also making concessions on the mobile money tax.
Museveni directed that refunds be made to customers whose deposits had been charged, and also confirmed that the levy should have been 0.5%.
The cabinet’s proposals will be presented to parliament for approval. Museveni’ party enjoys a parliament approval and usually endorses all the government’s proposals.
Gov’t insists on charging social media tax
Critics of the new taxes are likely not to be satisfied with the concessions, considering that government insists on levying the social media tax.
he state finance minister, David Bahati instead explained that cabinet had resolved to make payment of this tax convenient by allowing longer term payments.
“We want to get more options so that you can pay quarterly or annually, in addition to the daily, weekly and monthly subscriptions,” he said.
Currently, Ugandans can pay the $0.05 levy on a daily, weekly and monthly basis in order to access social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and others.
Bahati also said that government has since registered up to ten million users who have paid the social media tax, clarifying that it is not a tax on all internet services.
Uganda has about 23.6 million mobile phone subscribers, 17 million of whom use the internet, according to the state-run Uganda Communications Commission.