Lawyers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Law Society have condemned the proposed tax on social media by government.
President Museveni recently directed the Ministry of Finance to introduce a tax on the usage of social media as one of the ways for government to raise revenue as well as curtailing gossip by Ugandans, a move which has raised dust especially among social media users around the country.
However, lawyers think that such a move is unconstitutional and should not be left to see the light of the day.
“It violates the constitution that allows for access to information.It is meant to stifle communication,” Uganda Law Society president, Simon Peter Kinobe told journalists on Wednesday.
In the March 12 letter to the finance minister Matia Kasaija, Museveni indicated that there is lack of seriousness by the ministry and Uganda Revenue Authority in identifying tax sources and collecting more tax for the country to stop borrowing and also government to fulfil its obligations to the people, hence the new directive.
The president argued that government misses a lot of money in form of taxes when it fails to tax non educational communications on the internet, citing Facebook and Whats app as some of the social media platforms from which government can get money.
“Olugambo(gossip) on social media (opinions, prejudices, insults ,friendly chats) and advertisements by Google and I do not know who else must pay tax because we need resources to cope with the consequences of their lugambo,”he noted.
However, the lawyers believe that taxing social media will make it expensive for many people to use and on the end only a few who can afford it will be left to access social media.
“When you tax it, you make it a privilege for a selected section of the public. We know government wants to widen the tax base but it can be done through other means and not stifling communication,”Kinobe said.
However, Frank Tumwebaze, the ICT Minister recently said the president’s directive on taxation was misquoted by the public.
“This is intended to encourage the consumption of the apps invented by Ugandan innovators,” he said at the opening of 19th Africa Telecommunications Union Council of Administration conference in Kampala last week.