Uganda: Social Media Tax Heavily Resisted Amidst Protests, Arrests

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The Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda has announced that government will review the controversial social media and mobile money taxes, in the wake of a public outcry.

In June, the parliament had 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.

The new taxes which have been implemented by the country’s telecommunications companies since July 1, also saw Ugandans pay a 1% tax on all mobile money transactions. The mobile money tax has since been revised by the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni to 0.5%.

Rugunda told a session of parliament on Wednesday that government has noted “public concerns regarding some of the elements in implementation of especially tax on mobile money transactions and OTT.”

The same day, Africanews has it that a Ugandan legislator and three journalists were arrested by police, as they participated in a public demonstration against implementation of the taxes. Resistance to the tax has been very vocal on social media platforms using hashtags such as #ThisTaxMustGo.

Rugunda noted that the president has provided guidance on the matter, and urged further discussion on it so the country can reach a consensus on revenue collection vis a vis the country’s development agenda.

READ ALSO: Data Privacy: Zimbabwe Election Takes Another Turn.

Rugunda, who is the leader of government business said the review is being expedited to ensure that an Amendment of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act 2018 is presented to parliament for debate on Thursday next week.

“I would like to assure this Parliament that Government is committed to ensuring that the tax on mobile money and OTT are designed taking into account the public concerns and balancing the need to raise revenue to finance our development agenda,” he added.

Uganda has about 23.6 million mobile phone subscribers, 17 million of whom use the internet, according to the state-run Uganda Communications Commission.

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