The Ugandan Parliament has raised a proposal to charge every mobile phone user in the country an annual tax fee of Shs 5,000 for each mobile phone. The legislators say that this move will help raise more revenue.
The idea came up, of all times, for discussion while the committee was debating the request to review the salaries of the workers of the Electoral Commission. This proposal, although yet to be approved, is already endorsed by the Ugandan Budget Committee of Parliament led by Amos Lugoloobi.
With an projected 17.5 million mobile phone handsets in the country, this tax would raise about Shs87 billion annually if the bill is adopted by Parliament, a huge chunk of the Shs14 trillion needed by the government for the 2014/15 financial year.
Every member of the Ugandan Budget Committee of Parliament, except Kole County MP, Fred Ebil, endorsed the idea. Ebil argued that the would increase the burden on tax payers, clearly! The MPs rejected the argument that Ugandans, especially those in the countryside, could not afford the Shs5,000.
“This proposal will never pass. We are going to block it in public interest. We are already paying taxes through airtime. The prices are inclusive of taxes. You can tax an income or transaction and not usage because owning a mobile phone is not a transaction. If they want, they can increase other taxes on usage but not to impose taxes on ownership.” Says Eddie Kwizera, NRM, Bufumbira East.
The civil society is outraged, at what they describe as an effort to over-tax Ugandans with little to show in terms of accountability. The decision of passing the proposed phone tax will be given after receiving communication from the Budget Committee.
Mr Ekanya, who proposed the phone tax, has also suggested that tax on bottled drinking water be raised, while telling those who think the tax will affect them “to always travel with their own water”.
Way to care for your people sir!