Uganda Parliament has passed the law on controversial taxes on mobile money transactions and social media use amid strong protests from critics.
The new law impose a mandatory Ush200 ($0.05) daily levy for WhatsApp users starting July 1, while mobile money transactions will also attract a one per cent levy on the total value of the transaction.
But debate on tax on social media faced stiff resistance from younger MPs with Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyaggulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, dismissing it as double taxation.
He was supported by Padyere County’s Joshua Anywarach, and Silas Aogon of Kumi Municipality.
The youthful MPs argued that since WhatsApp is accessed through already taxed airtime, another levy would be an infringement on the users’ rights.
But junior Planning minister David Bahati rejected the assertion that government is taxing data or internet, saying it is only the service being taxed. He said with only $0.05 charge per a day, each consistent WhatsApp user will pay only $19.5 a year.
But the Excise Duty (Amendment) Act, 2018, also extends to the kitchen, with cooking oil facing a Ush200 ($0.05) levy per litre.
This pushed more MPs to put up spirited counter arguments against the new taxes, arguing they would break the backs of many Ugandans struggling to make ends meet.