Telephone companies, sellers and the Cameroonian people have whole heartedly debunked the new system of collecting customs duties and taxes by digital means on telephones and their terminals as stated in Article 7 of the Finance Law for the 2019 financial year.
The information to announce the law that will go operational Thursday, October 15 is contained in a communiqué jointly signed by Cameroon’s Ministers of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze and Post and Telecommunication, Minette Libom Li Likeng respectively on last September 29.
The release contain laid down directives for the collection of the said duties and taxes as stipulated in Decision N° 274/MINFI-DGD/MINPOSTELGIGT of 13 March 2020. Thus, the taxes and duties would be collected via a ‘special government platform’ and deducted directly by telephone operators in Cameroon.
Going by an announcement received with mixed feelings by Cameroonians within and without the national territory, the government on her part claims the process is to secure customs revenue and urges both phone importers and consumers to willfully comply with the tax in a bid to secure communication means in the country.
However, government’s super idea to deduct 33% customs duties and taxes from consumers airtime has been highly jested at on various social media platforms and followed by a campaign to end the phone tax in Cameroon. To some Cameroonians, it is absurd for consumers to pay customs duties and taxes on imported goods especially on communication gadgets. Thus, they hold that, customs officials have failed in performing their duties and want to dramatically shift dues meant to be settled by the importer on vulnerable consumers.
This move which highly contradicted on Twitter is accompanied by slogans such as #EndPhoneTax and #NoToPhoneTax. “Buying a phone in Cameroon now means I’ll have to pay 49.5% of taxes (19.5% VAT + 30% phone tax) just to communicate?,” asked a netizen on Twitter.
On her part, the Minister of Post and Telecommunication explained that, mobile phones and electronic tablets can be imported without customs duties and taxes, except in cases where the importer makes spontaneous payment of the duties dues. “It is also the responsibility of the consumer to ensure that the telephone purchased is cleared through customs,” she stressed.
With this, another citizen wrote that, “a good tax should be fair, a good tax system should be easy to understand, a good tax system should be transparent, a good tax system should have rates equal to the economic situation of the country.”
“Levying this huge tax on the population is just a preposterous move. We barely have access to our basic needs in this country not to talk of the crippling rate of unemployment and now we are required to pay a 30% tax on phones,” lamented a Web user.
It should be noted that, the new bill gave rise to a good number of unanswered questions as may Cameroonians have been outlining possible methods to escape from the said taxes. Others decried the payment of customs duties and taxes on telephones and related electronics due to they fact that they do not have tangible jobs.
According to Investir au Cameroun, telephone companies have not yet connected to the said ‘special government platform’ developed by Arintech. “This connection is however essential. In order to function, the system needs to linked to the databases of all telephone operators in the country. In addition, it is these companies that will now be responsible for collecting these taxes and remitting them monthly to the customs services.”
“We can’t connect because we have not even signed a contract with the state yet… We were asked to send our observations within a week. I imagine that after that, we will discuss because there is no question that we sign this contract,” a senior executive of a telephone company told Investir au Cameroun.
Likewise, the Association of Mobile Phone Operators in Cameroon, AOCTM, which is currently chaired by the CEO of Orange Cameroon, Frédéric Debord, should also speak this week with the Cameroonian authorities, to present their long list of grievances against the digital customs duty collection device on phones and tablets, Investir au Cameroun learnt.