Uganda introduces ‘WhatsApp’ tax

The parliament in Uganda has passed a controversial law imposing a tax on citizens using social media and internet messaging services, which is scheduled to be introduced on 1 July

The new tax will see a 200 shilling (4p) daily levy on people using platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Twitter.

The new Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill will also impose various other taxes, including a 1% levy on the total value of mobile money transactions - which civil society groups complain will affect poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services.

President Yoweri Museveni has been pushing for the changes, on the grounds that social media usage encouraged gossip, although critics have also suggested the move is designed to shut down criticism of his government.

It is not clear how tax authorities will be able to identify Ugandans accessing social media sites. There have been suggestions the tax would be levied daily by mobile phone operators on each SIM card used to access any of the targeted social media platforms.

About 40% of Uganda's 40m population use the internet, according to data from the regulating body Uganda Communications Commission.

Report by Pat Sweet

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