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URA temporarily suspends new rules on import clearance

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | City traders have suspended their planned strike after agreeing with Uganda Revenue Authority-URA to temporarily suspend it directive stopping them from putting their goods in customs warehouses in Mombasa and compel them to pay taxes immediately they reach the port entry.

The directive, which had taken effect on October 20, 2019, would have also seen traders pay taxes immediately they reach Mombasa or Dar-Es-Salaam and then leave the port immediately.

Their goods, URA had said, would not be eligible for warehousing anymore. This would have put the security of the goods in trouble in case traders fail to find money to clear immediately. Most traders import goods but they stay in customs warehouses in Mombasa as they look for money to clear them.

URA wanted this stopped. On Monday, the leadership of Kampala City Traders Association met URA officials where they agreed to suspend the directive until further notice. It was also agreed that all goods that were held up at Mombasa by the revenue body be released and cleared at the Uganda border.

This prompted the traders to suspend their planned protest march to the office of the Trade Minister on Tuesday. Issa Ssekito, the KACITA spokesperson, announced the resolution at the traders meeting in Kampala on Tuesday.

Among other things, the traders insist that URA should completely withdraw the directive. They said they might consider closing their shops in protest if next week on Tuesday when traders will meet the tax body, it refuses to completely withdraw the directive.

The traders, who were uncharacteristically emotional, said the tax body had failed to listen to their pleas on other issues like valuation of goods. The traders said URA was putting different valuations on their imports compared to what they charge Chinese and Indians importing similar products.

Rachel Ssentamu, the leader of Nakasero Hardware Traders’ Association, said when they attempted to complain, they were informed by the Minister of trade, Amelia Kyambadde and other officials that “Uganda was a free market economy”.

The traders have also resolved to invite URA officials to tell them the advantages of its directive and they will also share why it is dangerous for business.  Ssekito also read out the traders’ rejection of URA proposal that they meet it in small groups clustered in what they trade in.

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