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Cyber Law Initiative File Petition Against Constitutional Court Over Social Media Tax

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Technology law company; Cyber Law Initiative (U) Ltd, alongside its four directors; Daniel Opio Bill, Moses Baguma, Emmanuel Okiror, and Silver Kayondo have on Monday filed a petition over the social media tax that imposes a daily tax payment of UGX200 in order to use any of the social media platforms.

For those unaware, the proposition of the tax was proposed by H.E the President of Uganda; Yoweri K. Museveni in a letter he wrote to the Finance Minister Hon. Kasaija Matia insisting that the revenue collected would help the country cope with consequences of gossiping. It was then, late of May that the Parliament of Uganda passed the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2018 with amendments approving the President’s proposition.

While many industry experts and concerned parties came out to express their concerns that the new fee could impact usage of social media and mobile money in the country, Cyber Law Initiative (U) Ltd filed a petition with their core contention of challenging social media tax; economically complicates, circumscribes and strangulates the online enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are not hindered offline

The petitioners further aver that imposing excise duty of UGX200 per user per day of access to Over-The-Top (OTT) services on telecommunications service operators; hamper internet based or enabled business startups, budding entrepreneurs, job searches, talent promotion, and creativity.

They want court to issue an order, permanently stopping the government and all her agencies, authorities and officials from imposing any tax on internet or social media usage. In addition, they also want an order, directing the government and government regulatory body of the communications sector; Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) to only regulate OTT services in a manner that guarantees free access, net neutrality, and open internet.

With an estimate, over 17 million Ugandans are using social media. If say 17 million was to pay UGX200, it would be UGX3.4 billion collected every single day. As proposed by the President, he stated that the taxes collected from social media would be used to develop the nation. But it is worth knowing that this tax is paid via mobile money which has also taxed at 1% whether depositing, withdrawing, or receiving payments. This means that if you were to pay the social media tax (UGX. 200), you will have to pay more than the UGX200 so that the 1% is deducted and doesn’t affect the UGX200. This means that you have to pay an extra UGX2 as a tax – this totaling everything to UGX. 202.

Over 50 social media platforms have been affected including; WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Allo, Google Hangouts, TrueCaller, Viber, SnapChat, LINE, Telegram, Facetime, LinkedIn, Skype, Hike, BBM-Free, to mention a few.

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