UGANDA: Regime backtracks on taxing Social Media

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ICT and national guidance minister, Frank Tumwebaze during a press conference at Uganda Media Centre on April 10, 2018. Photo by Kennedy Oryema
No proposed tax on WhatsApp, Facebook – ICT Minister
KAMPALA (NEW VISION) – “There is nothing like social media tax. There is no such proposal. That is not what the president (Yoweri Museveni) proposed…”

The ICT and national guidance minister, Frank Tumwebaze, has said there is no proposal to levy tax on Ugandans for owning and using accounts on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

“There is nothing like social media tax. There is no such proposal. That is not what the president (Yoweri Museveni) proposed. No one will tax you for using WhatsApp and Facebook,” the minister said during a news briefing at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on Tuesday.

In a March 12 letter to the finance minister, President Yoweri Museveni, proposed an introduction of tax on over-the-top (OTT) services accessed through platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and Viber. These services, the president said, are a potential revenue stream and would generate about sh400b in additional income.

“This estimate is on the basis of minutes that we have captured being used by Ugandans over OTT. This does not include the undeclared calls and data by the telephone companies,” Museveni said.

Tumwebaze said the president is proposing a tax on value added services of some of the social media platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp calls. “These are called OTTs. It is not a Facebook or WhatsApp message,”

These value added services on social media platforms, the minister said, are increasingly becoming popular among Ugandans because they are cheaper and are not “taxed”. He said if a tax is levied on the services, the Government will be able to take internet services to areas that do not have connectivity.

OTT is a service you utilize over and above the services from the provided by the (service) provider. The internet service provider, for example, has no control or claim on the services the clients have access to with internet bundles paid for.

Besides accessing WhatsApp or Facebook, they can also make calls (video and voice) through WhatsApp and Skype among others using the same internet bundles.

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