ARUA – Members of South Sudanese Fish Suppliers SACCO are protesting against ‘exorbitant’ taxes levied by Uganda Revenue Authority [ URA ], saying the taxes are forcing them out of business.
The South Sudanese fishmongers accuse URA of charging them high import duty, withholding tax, and infrastructure levy, despite South Sudan, the importing country, being part of the East African Community [EAC].
From the start of this financial year 2022/2023,URA levied a charge of 0.6 percent tax per kilo of fish from South Sudan, entering Uganda via Alegu border, a double increment from the 0.3 percent charge in the previous financial year 2021/2022.
The South Sudanese traders say the multiple taxes that are also high are pushing them out of business notwithstanding the fact that they are yet to recover from the covid-19 induced lockdown.
Thon Amol, the chairman of the SACCO, says the high taxes are crippling their business. “We are demanding that the charges be reduced to at least 0.2 percent per kilo of fish entering Uganda. Most of our customers are the Congolese, they buy what we have imported into Uganda boosting the economy of Uganda,” Thon said.
Amol said that Kenya has less charges. “Kenya only charges us withholding tax and there is no charge for import duty and infrastructure levy,” he added, noting that many of the fish traders at Nimule border point have diverted their fish from entering Uganda to D.R Congo via Kie border point.
Peter Akech, the route coordinator of the traders, argues that they incur several expenses from the fishing site on River Nile in Sud region to the final destination. “The roads from the fishing sites in the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity State, and Lakes States are so impassable. This makes us waste a lot of money on transport,” Akech argued.
On her side, Milka Droma, a member of the traders, says that the high taxes by URA has greatly reduced her profit margin, making it hard for her to sustain her family. “I pay school fees for six children, yet my earnings have been affected by the high taxes,” She noted, calling for leaders to help the situation.
She added: “We have written to our government in South Sudan, RCC of Arua city, and Jackson Lee Atima, MP of Arua Central, they need to do the needful.”
However, URA says their hands are tied, making them not to help the situation.
Abel Kagumire, the URA commissioner for customs, notes that they only implement the laws as enacted by parliament. “I urge you [complainants] to lobby through your leaders for South Sudan to sign the Uganda customs protocol.”
“The taxes are low in Kenya likely because South Sudan signed Kenya’s customs protocol. If this is sorted, you will not pay for import duty and infrastructure levy, but you will only pay withholding tax,” Kagumire said.
South Sudanese Fish Suppliers SACCO founded in 2018, has more than 2,000 members. They are involved in fishing on River Nile in Sud, preservation of fish, transportation, and the sale of the fish targeting mainly the markets in eastern DR Congo and Northern Uganda.
Buy your copy of thecooperator magazine from one of our country-wide vending points or an e-copy on emag.thecooperator.news