Why Ugandans will keep evading unfair taxes!

By Abbey Semuwemba

Yesterday was an heroic date in Uganda's history, because a president was forced to deny publicly the arrangement of a new tax called mobile money, yet he had engineered and signed it into law himself. He argued that he had directed a 0.5% tax reduction on mobile money transactions rather than the 1% that was passed by MPs, not that it makes the situation any better.

Since the terms "left" and "right" emerged during the French Revolution. The definitions have undergone some changes, sometimes the boundaries have got more or less blurred, but most of those characteristics continue to be emblematic of the left. This is particularly true of taxation, and particularly so in the countries where many right wingers believe that taxation is theft and think that a society can be run without taxation.

Personally, I think people start viewing taxation as theft if they don't directly benefit from the taxes, and I strongly believe this is the reason the social media tax introduced this month in Uganda, is being looked at negatively. Ugandans benefit less from the taxes as most of it goes towards keeping Museveni in power and making his cronies happy, on top of out of control corruption. The taxation system in Uganda is basically like robbing you at gunpoint, and then give you a bottle of wine to help dull the pain. The gun or force is always there. The basis of the state rests on force. That's why the gov't is already threatening those that use VPN to dodge paying the social media tax.

Journalist Andrew Mwenda obviously disagrees with this, and mocked Ugandans that they want services from the gov't, but don't want to pay taxes. He obviously made that statement basing on the taxation system in countries where citizens see how taxes directly benefit them. In some developed nations, they go as far as using part of the taxes to cater for the unemployed, such that when people are out of work, their gov't provide temporary social safety nets. In Uganda, on the otherhand, even simple things like healthcare aren't affordable to citizens. Same for housing. It's good to have housing for all and a good govt should try--thru private sector and government--to offer affordable housing to almost everyone. But some idiot has gone ahead and proposed rental tax instead of encouraging people to build as many houses around the country as possible. The truth is that new taxes such as social media and rental tax are only ideal for a future Uganda and therefore a future president, not now or anytime soon.

It seems obvious that an efficient system of public transport is an essential element in any society and in many countries trains and buses are heavily subsidized in order both to save fuel and to ensure that people can get to work. But what has the Museveni gov't done about this in the last 32 years? Even the trains that were functional under Amin and Obote are not different from skulls in Luwero.

Nobody is encouraging a nanny state here but my dream is to be in a democracy with a social conscience. It doesn't make sense to introduce a tripple taxation on a service , such as mobile money, which is very popular with the majority poor and created employment for the youths, simply because you want to boost the businesses of the banks( minority rich).

Actually, for me I propose much higher taxes on the rich because it would be a boom to the economy. Why? Because it would have the effect of forcing the rich to reinvest in their businesses. Today, the big business owner screws the worker and takes more of the earnings out of his business as personal profits. And why not? His rate of taxation on his personal income is so low -- that he's more than happy to pay the low taxes due. He can then turn around as an individual and invest the money left after paying taxes into entities that earn capital gains, which are taxed at the super-low rate. Now, the profits he took out of his business are being put to work to earn him a personal fortune that sits outside of whatever he's doing in his business. Eventually, he gets most his business salary paid in stock options and tax-deferred funds that allow him to avoid paying taxes at all, or at the worst, at the lower rate. That is how most of the sugarcane factory owners in Busoga survive while the majority of the Basoga that work for them are perennially poor.

Goverment shouldn't interfere with internet expansion and growth in the country, because its part of indirect investment in the population. Investments in people creates a consumer class that has the spending power to purchase goods and services that allows businesses to expand even more.

Of course, we then get down to what the priorities are of our nation. The little taxes we collect now would be enough to give ugandans services if our government wasnt extravagant, corrupt, relying on partisanship, or spending money on stuff we could do without. As long as Museveni continues to run Uganda like his personal property, people will resist certain taxes. In USA, those that resist unfair taxes call themselves "Moonshiners". In Uganda, we're yet to come up with an agreed name but they shall probably be called the "VPNs".

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba Resides in the UK
"In tribute to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Uganda, two bastions of strength in a world filled with strife, discrimination and terrorism."