Social Media Users To Pay Daily Tax In Uganda

Photo: Eric BARADAT / AFP


Ugandan users of Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and other social media will from July have to pay a daily tax, according to a new law which rights activists said Thursday was a bid to stifle free speech.

Uganda’s parliament passed a law late Wednesday imposing a tax of tax of 200 shillings ($0.05, 0.04 euro) a day on users of so-called “over the top” services which publish content bypassing traditional distributors.

The new law does not spell out how the tax would be applied and collected in practice.

Finance Minister David Bahati said the aim of the legislation was only to raise revenue for public services.

However, President Yoweri Museveni wrote to the finance ministry in March urging the introduction of the tax as a way to deal with the consequences of online “gossip”.

Journalist and activist Lydia Namubiru said that Museveni sees online communication as a threat to his 32-year rule.

“The president… said it was to stop young people from gossiping but what’s ironic about that statement is that it comes after Bobi Wine became a member of parliament through an online campaign,” Namubiru told AFP, referring to a musician turned opposition politician who has proved wildly popular with Uganda’s frustrated youth.

“It’s actually political speech and online organising which has real life implications for him and his power. The overarching intention is to stifle free speech, especially now there is evidence that online organisation works.”

Despite the small daily levy, Namubiru said he thinks it will be effective in curtailing social media use, as most Ugandans buy data in small bundles of 500-1,000 shillings.

In April, Uganda’s communications regulator instructed internet service providers to suspend unlicensed online news websites, and during the 2016 presidential elections access to social media was shut down.

The new law also imposes a new tax of one percent on mobile money transactions. With little access to formal banking services, many Ugandans rely on mobile telephone companies to store and transfer money electronically.

“Only five million Ugandans countrywide can access the banking sector leaving the rest to mobile money services,” said Winnie Kiiza, the opposition leader in parliament as she opposed the move.


Apple To Pay $38bn In Taxes On Repatriated Profits

Photo: Don EMMERT / AFP


Apple announced Wednesday it would pay some $38 billion in taxes — likely the largest payment of its kind — on profits repatriated from overseas as it boosts investments in the United States.

The iPhone maker said in a statement it plans to use some of its foreign cash stockpile, which qualifies for reduced tax rates under a recent bill, to invest in new projects.

Apple, which claims to be the largest US taxpayer, is also one of the largest beneficiaries of a tax bill passed by Congress in December which lowers the rate of repatriated profits to around 15 percent and cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent.

The tech giant had built a stockpile of more than $250 billion in overseas holdings, claiming it was not in the interests of shareholders to repatriate the money with a 35 percent tax rate.

Apple said it will now use a large chunk of the overseas cash for US investments.

It said it expects to invest over $30 billion in direct capital expenditures in the US over the next five years, creating some 20,000 new jobs, and claimed the move would contribute $350 billion in economic activity in the US.

“Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the US economy,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

“We believe deeply in the power of American ingenuity, and we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness. We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible.”


Osinbajo Signs Executive Order On Taxes, Assets Declaration

Yemi Osinbajo, Beyond The Grid, Solar Energy Units

The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has signed an executive order to back the Voluntary Assets Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).

Professor Osinbajo signed the executive order on Thursday morning during the launch of VAIDS at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Key government officials, including the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, witnessed the signing of the executive order and launch of the scheme, which the acting President said is targeted at increasing tax awareness and compliance.

It will also grant taxpayers a time-limited opportunity to regularise their tax status without penalty.

The Acting President said, “When people pay taxes they pay more attention to what government is doing. There’s a greater level of political and social consciousness.

“Taxes not only about boosting government revenues. When people pay taxes they hold the government to account more.”

While decrying the low number of Nigerians that pay taxes, Professor Osinbajo said, “Tax evasion not limited only to wealthy Nigerians. (It is) Also not limited to individuals. Many companies maintain two to three sets of books.”

According to the Acting President, the scheme is being rolled out by the Federal and state governments and will ensure that citizens and companies pay taxes.

No Intention To Increase Taxes, Udoma Tells National Assembly

No Intention To Increase Taxes, Udoma Tells National AssemblyThe Federal Government says it does not have any intention of increasing taxes in Nigeria.

The government, however, said it was working towards increasing its internally generated revenue through the broadening of its tax base.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, made this clarification on Monday, while responding to a comment by Senator Ben Bruce, at the public hearing of the Joint Session of the National Assembly on the 2017 Budget.

The minister said “a view has been expressed that we should not increase taxes, that we should broaden tax collection instead. That is precisely what is in the budget”.

No Increase At All In Taxes

Senator Bruce had given the impression that the Federal Government was about to increase taxes, a development he said would further worsen the economic fortunes of individuals and businesses.

Mr Udoma stated that “there is no increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), there is no increase in company’s income tax (and) there is no increase at all in taxes.

“But people who are not paying taxes must be made to pay. So the idea is to increase revenue by broadening the tax base, not by increasing taxes”.

Some economic experts who spoke at the session advocated government spending its way out of recession, partnering the private sector to speed up growth, planning for sustainable development, working with the State governments for integrated development, involving relevant experts, as well as consulting widely in planning, monitoring and evaluation of projects among others.

The Minister told the gathering, which also include Civil Society Organisations and private sector operators, that all the views expressed by the speakers have been captured in the 2017 Budget.

“The concerns that have been expressed are reflected in the budget; the need to spend our way out of recession is reflected in the budget, the need to spend in a way that will attract private sector spending is also reflected in the budget.

“Indeed, the thrust of the budget is to partner with private and development capital to leverage and catalyse resources for growth,” he said.

Achieving Economic Growth

Mr Udoma said the government realised that public resources cannot be enough to drive the development process, which is why the 2017 Budget was directed at catalysing private sector resources and using PPP for a number of projects.

“If you look at housing, we are putting in 100 billion Naira, but we are expecting another 900 billion Naira from the private sector.

“If you look at the EPZ, we are putting in 50 billion Naira, but we are expecting a huge injection of funds from the private sector.

“So, this budget is aimed at achieving economic growth, aimed at achieving diversification, aimed at improving our competitiveness, aimed at improving ease of doing business, aimed at creating more jobs and social inclusion, and aimed at improving governance and security,” he explained.

According to the minister, the spending is targeted at areas that have quick transformative potentials such as infrastructure and agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals and services among others.

He pointed out that the present government believes in planning, stressing that “when we came in, we came out with a document – the Strategic Implementation Plan for the 2016 Budget of Change.

“We set out short term plans for one year. We started working on a longer term plan for four years 2017 -2020; and that involved extensive consultation”.

Economic Recovery and Growth Plan

Senator Udoma, who touched on partnership with state governments, told the audience that the Federal Government has consulted severally with State governors and with Commissioners of Planning in all the states.

“We are working closely with the States. We even organised a retreat in February 2016 with all the states. In all our initiatives, we are working with the states.

“(Also) on agriculture, we are working with the states; we even have task forces that involve state governors. So, we are working together with the states,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesman, Akpandem James.

The minister spoke further on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan where he pointed out that the government consulted the private sector extensively.

“Indeed, just last week we met twice with captains of industry and members of the private sector to sit down and expose the plan to them and get their input.

“We are going to council soon and subsequently the plan will be launched before the end of the month,” he said.

Mr Udoma further explained that because government has bold plans which are tailored towards pulling Nigeria out of recession, investors are changing their attitude towards Nigeria.

“People have heard of our plans; they have seen the plan because we have had extensive consultations with our development partners – with the World Bank, with IMF (and) with UNDP.

“They have all been exposed to our plan and we have shown them what we are determined to do (because) that is why people are believing in Nigeria and investing in the Eurobond,” he disclosed.

The Path Of Growth

The minister was emphatic that the government has a clear vision and is on a determined path to get the economy out of recession.

“We are determined thereafter to begin to go back to the path of growth, a more diversified growth, not depending just on crude oil.

“We want to stimulate our manufacturing sector, we want to stimulate agriculture; so we have a coherent, cohesive plan,” he said.

The Minister of State, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on her part, said government was determined to ensure that Nigerians experience inclusive growth this time around, “which is why we have the social intervention programme.

“The social intervention programme took off fully in October 2016 and all the four components of the SIP have now been rolled out in their first phases and we are scaling up on a monthly basis.” she said.

Mrs Ahmed added that the programme would benefit greatly from the support of the National Assembly, in order to ensure that the benefits were distributed equitably and that no needy citizens were missed out.

Nigeria Ranked 169th In World Bank Report

nigeriaNigeria has been ranked 169 out of 189 countries surveyed by the World Bank in its 2016 annual ease of doing business.

According the global lender, the country moved from 170th position in 2015.

The World Bank explained that while other African countries have created a more enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the last 12 months, Nigeria continues to lag behind in this regard.

The report further indicates that rankings for sub-Saharan Africa showed the most room for improvement in getting electricity, trading across borders, and paying taxes.

Senate President, Saraki Promises To Block Revenue Leakages

SarakiNigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has given an assurance that the Senate would use its supervisory role to plug the leakages of revenue in the country.

Senator Saraki gave the assurance when he received the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr James Entwistle, at the National Assembly.

An audit report done by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) between 1999 and 2011 revealed a total revenue loss of 9.8 billion dollars to the federation.

This loss is as a result of underpayments, under assessment of taxes, rents, royalties and other process lapses.

To confront this problem, the federal government has said that it would take all necessary steps to implement the findings and recommendations contained in the audit reports of NEITI.

Senator Bukola Saraki, however, says one of the priorities of the eight assembly is to plug revenue leakages.

He said that the oversight functions of the legislature would be strengthened in such a way that there would be no loopholes in implementing government plans and projects.

The Senate President also warned government agencies to desist from the practice of not remitting government revenue to the federation account, saying government will no longer condone such mismanagement.

The US Ambassador assured the Senate President of the support of the US Government in the areas of power supply and capacity development.

NNPC Has Been Cleared Of Missing Money Scandal – Spokesman

An NNPC spokesman, Omar Ibrahim, on Monday disclosed that the petroleum agency has been cleared of all allegations leveled against it by the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, through its response to the controversial letter which claimed a sum of $48.9 billion was ‘missing.’

Mr Ibrahim told Channels Television during a Sunrise Daily interview that the position of theagency concerning the CBN governor’s letter to the President which made allegations of a missing 49.8 billion dollars supposedly unremitted by the agency to the FAAC, was wrongly written, insisting that “We believe that that letter was born either out of complete mischief or lack of understanding of the operations of the oil industry and how oil is marketed.”

There are five streams for crude oil proceeds: equity crude, taxes, royalty, third party and NPDC. Mr Ibrahim explained while speaking on Sunrise Daily that the total sum of monies realised from all these streams is over 67 billion dollars.

“Since we have 5 streams, NNPC is responsible for only equity crude,” he said.

What is collected in taxes is paid into CBN account for the FAAC in the name of the FIRS. For royalty, we pay it into the DPR account in the CBN.

What the NNPC pays into the Central Bank in its name is the equity, he said, adding that the ‘third party’ and the ‘NPDC’ is “not very significant.”

According to him taxes take up between 50-88 percent of the total proceeds while royalty accounts for 0-20 percent. The NNPC pays the rest into the FAAC with the CBN.

He stated that the DPR is not an off-shoot of the NNPC as widely believed but an “agency of government in the ministry of petroleum resources.” It is a parastatal “completely independent of the NNPC.”

Mr Ibrahim insisted that the 4th of October reply to the letter written on 25th of September cleared the NNPC of all allegations and “that was why nobody came back to us.”

“How it lived and became an issue now is something we’ve been wondering.”

Asked if the CBN was satisfied with NNPC’s response, Mr Ibrahim said “the CBN did not communicate to us directly and therefore we did not communicate to them directly.”

He however did not confirm if the CBN received their letter but was quick to conclude that they received the letter “because they sent it to Mr President; the President sent it to NNPC for clarification and it was sent back to His Excellency and we believe the President would have cleared shown the Governor of the Central Bank.

“That ended the matter as far as we are concerned.”

On Sanusi’s purported ignorance of the workings of the NNPC, Mr Ibrahim hinted that the governor of the apex bank does not know everything.

“People work under him and they are the ones who report to him,” he said, hinting that his immediate lieutenants did not see the letter nor approve it.”

Jonathan Signs Personal Income Tax Act into Law

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has signed into law the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA), the first major revision to the tax law since 1979, the Nation reported.

According to the report, the law was over seven years in the making. The bill had been sent to National Assembly in 2004, and was only passed on to the President after it has passed through both chambers of the sixth National Assembly.

The Nation cited a statement released by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which claimed that the new act will make more disposable income available to lower income earners, “following the amendment of the income tax table and adjustments in the applicable income tax incremental bands, which brings it in line with current income levels”, the Nation reported.

The new and improved Act, according to the Nation’s report, will simplify the compliance process by merging the reliefs and allowances stipulated in the Act, lowering the burden on low income earners.

With more taxpayers, including those in the informal sector coming into the tax net, the Act also widens, significantly, the tax base.

The statement said the Act will make the outdated and unrealistic reliefs and allowances associated with the former Act, obsolete, replacing them with enhanced consolidated reliefs and allowances.