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URA locks horns with traders over paying taxes at port of entry

FILE PHOTO: Mombasa port

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  | A meeting between Uganda Revenue Authority-URA and traders in Kampala on Tuesday ended without a common resolution as traders accused URA officials of coming up with directives without consulting them.

The meeting, which took place at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala was organized by Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), the traders’ umbrella organization.

It was hoped that URA and traders would reach an understanding between them on the latter’s demand that URA withdraw a directive requiring them to pay taxes from the port of entry – that is Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

The directive, which was issued on October 17, 2019, also stopped most of the goods from being put in the bonded warehouses, including footwear, garments of all kind, motor vehicle and cycle tyres among others.

Traders argue that paying goods in Mombasa and having no customs warehouses for their goods increases the risk of being stolen. Also, they argue, many of them don’t have money to clear goods immediately so being in warehouses gives them time to look for credit to clear their goods.

The meeting became rowdy with angry traders telling URA that they have become poor because of its policies that have made trade impossible.

Amina Ssemakula, a rice importer, said URA has turned traders into slaves in their own country.

The traders had demanded the URA commissioner for customs Dickson Kateshumbwa shows up at the meeting but he snubbed them.

Steven Magera, the URA assistant commissioner trade URA commissioner, attempted to explain to traders that there would be opportunity for those not interested in paying from the port of entry to pay when their goods reach. This was rejected by traders who insisted the earlier directive must be withdrawn.

Magera implored the traders to be patient and meet with URA officials again on November 15, 2019 where the commissioner customs Kateshumbwa must attend as traders demanded.

It is then, Magera said, when the tax body will inform the traders whether the directive has been withdrawn or not. Currently, the directive is temporarily suspended.

Harriet Katungye, a trader in building materials, said they expected URA officials to give them reasons why they are pushing traders to clear from Mombasa.

Everest Kayondo, the Kacita executive director, said they expected URA to come up with the solution. He said they want Kateshumbwa himself to appear and explain their issues.

Traders have been threatening to close shops if URA doesn’t go their way.

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