Members of parliament subscribing to the opposition Forum for Democratic change have criticized government for introducing the mobile money and social media taxes.
In a communication to the deputy speaker of parliament Jacob Oulanya, MPs led by the leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza said Ugandans especially the poor, depend on mobile money as the fastest way of transacting business.
She says it does not make sense to exempt the rich from paying taxes and in turn putting the whole burden on the poor.
“We need healthcare, we need infrastructure, but how do we get the money to lead us to where we would like to go? We need taxes but from whom? Time and again the issue of tax exemption for those who are supposed to pay the real tax that would redeem us from poverty has been coming up here” Ms. Kiiza said.
She added that the Finance minister recently asked the house to exempt big corporations from paying corporate tax, which is money on profit.
“I would imagine that these telecommunication companies that are enabling our people to access services through mobile money transfers earn profits, which would be used for corporation tax. However, the minister of finance was asking us to exempt them” she revealed.
Her argument was followed by that of Hon. Betty Aol, Woman MP Gulu who said Ugandans are already over burdened by the transaction fee (sending and withdraw charges) paid to telecommunication companies, and they now have to add a tax, which is unfair.
“I would like to make one thing clear and also propose, we have this transaction fee which is now even a burden on us, what if we decide to reduce on that and let part of it become the tax that we need? I suggest this because people are now overburdened by the transaction fee” she said.
Adding that; “As FDC, we believe that when an MP betrays the people’s will, it is within the power of the voters to punish that individual MP for failing to put the people first. We should hold all our MPs accountable.”
Gersho Sizomu, the Bungokho County North MP also said to the speaker; “I oppose Mobile Money Tax because it targets the poor. It limits the flow of money from the rich to the poor thereby increasing income inequality. This tax is going to make the poor Ugandans poorer. Social Media Tax also targets the poor, we should abandon it.”
The MP added that the UGX 200 is going to compound to billions of money; so, a tax that targets poor people should not be entertained. “I suggest that it should be abandoned” Hon. Sizomu concluded.
In his presentation, Atkins Katusabe, the Bukonjo County west MP in Kasese said the country is losing more to corruption while the poor are used to refund the monies through such taxes. "I don’t want to be part of a House that works so hard to strangle those Ugandans out there that are trying to survive” he added.
The development follows criticism by members of the public against failure by opposition MPs to defend them on the ruthless taxes.
However, FDC explained that they had no say in the vote.
“Social media tax and Mobile Money Tax law was voted thru using a voice vote (aye & nay). While there was a debate, the vote was not an individual vote. This method is used where votes are expected to be landslides. A roll call is used usually on constitutional matters. The day that the tax was passed through, NRM MPs were in their caucus discussing the sugar Bill. They were all of a sudden called to come & vote. They flocked in Parliament which had constituted itself into a committee of supply and just voted Aye” FDC explained.
It remains unclear, whether or not government will bow to pressure from the citizenry and remove the taxes.