Uganda’s government slapped a levy on users of WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and other communications apps, alongside increasing tax on mobile money transactions, despite fierce criticism from civil rights organisations.
Users of so-called “over-the-top services” which includes any communications app not provided directly by a mobile operator will be taxed UGX200 ($0.05) per day.
The new tax on mobile money use is in the form of a 1 per cent levy on transactions charged to both the sender and recipient.
Uganda’s government approved the measures alongside the rest of the Excise Duty (amendment) bill 2018, which introduces a number of other new taxes on citizens.
In a statement the country’s Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development said it was “unfair and inequitable” customers using services including WhatsApp, Viber and Skype were not paying tax, when those using operator-provided voice calls do.
However, the move was slammed by activists in the country. Critics quoted by Reuters claim the move is an attempt to stop “gossip” against the country’s leadership and is politically motivated.
While the tax on social media was slated as an attempt to prevent free speech, the mobile money levy has been slammed for its perceived harsher impact on poorer members of society.
Authorities claim both taxes are an attempt to raise revenue and make taxation fairer in the country.