Tax body, Uganda Revenue Authority has cleared the air on the issue of taxing oxygen cylinders.
As the Covid situation in the country deteriorated, the demand for oxygen went up as consequently, many Covid patients admitted in the Intensive Care Units of various health facilities died to due to the lack of the life- saving gas.
President Museveni last week said problem has been exacerbated by lack of enough cylinders to hold the life-saving gas.
Many have since concluded that the heavy taxes charged on importation of oxygen cylinders has made it difficult for the country to have more of these containers.
However, in a statement released on Monday, the tax body dismissed the claims as untrue, saying oxygen cylinders are tax free.
“Medical oxygen is essential medicine in the treatment of COVID-19 and oxygen gas cylinders/bottles or tanks are a known method used for the conveyance of oxygen to patients. They are described as pressure vessels used to store gases above atmospheric pressure. High-pressure oxygen gas cylinders are also often called bottles. oxygen gas cylinders are tax exempt,” Ian Rumanyika, the acting Assistant Commissioner, Public and Corporate Affairs said.
Quoting a legal notice dated June,30,2020 for the amended East African Community Customs Management Act to cater for COVID-19 supplies, the tax body listed some items including oxygen cylinders that are exempted from taxes.
URA said any supplies for diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of epidemics; pandemics and health hazards as recommended by the competent authority in the ministry responsible for health are exempted from paying taxes.
“Based on the aforementioned, oxygen gas cylinders are considered an essential tool used in diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and management of the COVID-19 pandemic and are therefore exempted from all taxes in line with the 5th Schedule of the East African Community Customs Management Act.”
Following the onset of the second wave of the deadly virus in the country, there has been a big oxygen deficit.
President Museveni recently said the oxygen deficit is expected to increase with the number of infections going up.
“An average non-COVID-19 critical patient consumes one to two oxygen cylinders per day, however, a severely ill Covid-19 patient needs four to six cylinders per day. The current oxygen challenge we are facing is the availability of empty cylinders for distribution. Of course, if cases keep expanding, it can also outstrip our production capacity,” Museveni said.
According to the president, the current national daily oxygen consumption stands at 3,000 cylinders per day, where each cylinder is 6,800 liters, adding that it will soon go up.
“With the estimated Covid-19 patient increase in the coming weeks, the daily oxygen consumption will rise to 25,800 cylinders per day in one month, unless we change the course. This is nearly a 9 -fold increase in the overall national oxygen requirement.”
The oxygen deficit has however been attributed to lack of enough containers(cylinders) to keep the life-saving gas.