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Ugandans to be taxed Sh5 daily for using WhatsApp

Ugandans will be now charged UGX200 (about Sh5) on a daily basis for the use of mobile phone app WhatsApp.

This after Parliament on Wednesday passed controversial taxes on both mobile money transactions and social media, amid protests from some members.

Under the new law, which takes effect on July 1, mobile money transactions will attract a one percent levy on the total value of the transaction.

The law was passed despite stiff resistance from a section of younger lawmakers led by the vocal Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyaggulanyi aka Bobi Wine, who stated these fresh taxes amounted to double taxation.

Kyaggulanyi argued that since WhatsApp is accessed through taxed airtime, another levy would be an infringement on the users’ rights.

Junior Planning minister David Bahati however dismissed claims that the government is taxing data or internet, arguing that it is the service which was being taxed.

CYBERCRIME LAWS

Bahati also termed the taxes as reasonable, amounting to ‘only’ UGX 73,000 (about Sh1,972) a year.

Critics of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2018 had also argued that taxing social media would amount to restrictions on freedoms of expression on the internet while taxing mobile money transactions would hurt low income earners who had found solace in the services after mainstream banks failed to reach them with suitable services.

Ugandan government however argued that the needs of poor citizens had been considered and that the revenue collected from the new taxes would be used to provide services such as free education, free healthcare and free roads that are demanded by the citizens.

The move comes two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act into law.

The new laws are aimed at addressing online abuse that was not covered by laws that predated the proliferation of social media.