UCU Students, Public Officials Air Opinions on OTT, Mobile Money Taxes

By Billy Bayo
Uganda’s Over the Top Tax (OTT) on the country’s social media and Mobile Money taxes were the main topics for the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Law Society 2018 symposium.

Held at Nkoyoyo Hall on the UCU main campus in Mukono, on 31 October 2018, roughly 100 students listened and debated the economic and freedom injustices of the new taxes. OTT, which costs UGX 200 a day, and the Mobile Money tax were implemented in July of this year.

The annual symposium topic was “The choice of taxing OTT (Over the Top Tax) and mobile money services as a tool of widening Uganda’s tax base.” Joining students in the discussion were thinkers, policy makers, and journalists.

The Infamous OTT and Mobile Money Tax

Hon. Nobert Mao, the Democratic Party (DP) President

Hon. Nobert Mao, the Democratic Party (DP) President, who was tasked to discuss the role of citizens said, “If you want to encourage innovation, internet should be free. The social media tax is about undermining collective citizenship not collecting money. The tax is also anti-young people because it is the young generation that is so much on these social media platforms. I hope the next government which is coming soon will reverse that decision immediately.”

Nicholas Opiyo, a Human Rights Attorney attached to Chapter Four Uganda, agreed that shutting down social media is “an attempt by state to shield from scrutiny and also cartel the free flow of information and it is associated with state violence.” He added his belief that taxes should be levied for progressive purposes with hopes that “the court will declare the tax unlawful and nullifies it.”

Ian Mutiibwa, an advocate at Signum Advocates said, “The taxing of social media and the tax on mobile money is wrong even if it’s only 0.5 percent. It is taking us backwards. These taxes will kill people because we shall go backwards. The principle of double taxation is that the same income should not be taxed twice from the same person. However, the mobile money tax is absolutely against that principle.”

Raymond Mujuni, a journalist with NBS Television said the multinational companies providing those services should be taxed instead of double taxing the citizens.

An intellectually charged Raymond further said he is totally against the OTT and Mobile Money taxes.

“These taxes must go, I totally disagree with them and I am ready to challenge it. Without economic freedom, there is no freedom for any black man. Those who have taxed us into oblivion, there must be accountability,” he said.

Simon Peter M. Kinobe, the President of Uganda Law Society (ULS) agreed that the state has an obligation to collect taxes.  However, he took issue with what the taxes are used for, arguing that the impact of both taxes needed to be researched before being passed.

“The state has an obligation to collect tax. The big question is what our taxes are being used for?” he asked.

Other issues discussed at the annual forum included tribalism and political inclusion of the youth in decision-making.

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