By Patrick Kateregga
After hearing purely unresearched and ungrounded submissions on airwaves from some UCC officials and supporters of #SocialMediaTax and #MobileMoneyTax, I believe they deserve to be advised, if not, educated.
I may not waste much time on mobile money tax since it can even be seen by a P.7 vacist that it’s not only a triple taxation but also a move to kill the growth of the economy. Who said mobile money has not been taxed before? The transfer charges are earnings to telecom companies who pay Income Tax to the government and this income tax increases as their earnings increase. It’s for this reason that telecom companies are biggest tax payers in the country. Why then would you add an extra 1% and claim that over 62 trillion shillings in circulation is not taxed?
Even that 62 trillion shillings does not sit in people’s pockets. It’s kept in banks, which banks pay taxes on money kept on accounts and earnings or interests they make. Why would mobile money charges be higher than ATM charges for the same amount withdrawn if it wasn’t for taxes?
On social media, you need to appreciate that what UCC calls ‘Over The Top’ services have actually become the mainstream media channels. Just like before mobile phones, letters, telegraph & post offices were the main channels. When technology was invented, these were revolutionised, if not replaced.
So when you say that OTT tax is meant to protect mainstream channels like SMS, voice calls, T.V & newspapers, you were talking from a point of ignorance. Since it’s actually these very service providers that benefit more from Social media. Who do you think we pay to when we buy data? Why do you think telecom companies promote social media bundles?
MTN, Airtel & other telecom companies sell airtime & data which we use to access internet, so why would you say that they are nolonger making money?! I don’t want to keep repeating that they pay taxes on this very airtime we buy and convert to data.
If you didn’t know, it was the tabloids and media channels that were among the first sectors to embrace social media after making research & finding out that in the near future, almost 3 quarters of the World’s population would be on social media. It’s actually journalists & media channels who benefit from these platforms, with timely updates, prompting massive followings and positive brand positioning.
Social media service providers are companies, and we expected you to know this. UCC or URA should have gathered statistics on how many Ugandans use these services and how much these companies make out of the Ugandan market and cause a meeting to discuss revenue (tax) from those companies just like how Income Tax operates. If you didn’t know, Facebook is already investing a lot in distributing internet to different parts of the world. Couldn’t you use statistics to bargain for such investments?
Multinational companies don’t necessarily need a local office to pay taxes. It’s costly to have offices in each country, even if it was you with such a company, you wouldn’t. But I don’t blame any for not knowing this. They have either never set up any company all their lifetime or they think locally.
OTT tax is actually censorship and it’s a deterrent to development.
When we tell you that many businesses and researchers use social media, in your mind you think Google and Yahoo should be the substitutes, that’s where you still need to be educated. Search engines don’t store content, they only link you to the sources of that content in which case social media pages and profiles are ranking high on every search result page, for the last decade. Google and Yahoo are also making money through their display ads. Are you also about to block Google?
Businesses use social media to advertise, not quite sure whether UCC advertises, because if it did, it would by now know which channels are more effective in relation to traditional and social media channels.
The tourism sector, which is by the way the highest contributor to Uganda’s GDP, heavily relies on social media – because that’s where the masses are. Visitors are encouraged to post their experiences instantly whenever they visit different sites. In turn, the whole world can see these posts and get encouraged to visit Uganda. Now that social media is blocked or inconvenienced, this leverage is no more.
You can never fight technology, because when you fight social media & internet access, VPNs are invented. Just embrace it, learn it, customize it & enhance it – that’s what technology is!!