The 10th Parliament is likely to kick off with a stand off against President Yoweri Museveni following his rejection of their plan to be exempted from paying taxes on their allowances.
President Museveni this week rejected a Bill by Members of Parliament branding it “Politically and morally incorrect”. But even before he declined the plan the MP’s had warned him that they would throw back the burden on to the tax payers by raising their salaries
Members of Parliament have warned those pressing for the taxation of their emoluments to back off or else they will shift the burden to the tax payer by increasing their income to offset the impact of the tax.
” I must tell you the naked truth; if they overpower us and go ahead to tax our emoluments we shall follow suit and increase our emoluments in order to offset the effect on performance in our constituencies ” said Henry Musasizi, the Rubanda East legislator who moved the motion to amend the contentious (income tax) bill 2016.
“That way there will be zero effect because we shall increase it by the very margin of the tax they will levy on our emoluments and the burden will still return back to the shoulders of the tax payer, ” he added
Musasizi dismissed the campaign by Civil Society organizations to stop President Museveni from assenting to the income tax amendment bill (which the MPs are using as a vehicle to waive taxation on their income as a waste of time.
“I am a member of the NRM and that person they are talking about in the highest office(referring to president Museveni) is also my chairman and we first consulted him before we started this move and we agreed with him that it is only on that basis (of remaining exempt) we shall not increase our emoluments,” Musasizi said.
Since February this year, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has been taxing MPs around Ushs9m in Pay As You Earn (PAYE) per month following the Cconstitutional court ruling which removed MPs from the income tax exempt bracket. In fact according to some MPs, URA is collecting tax arrears dating as far back as the 8th parliament.
Narrating their experience since URA started deducting 40% of their income, MPs are lamenting that the tax is already biting so hard that it is already affecting work in running their constituencies.
“The effects of this tax are already enormous because it has since chopped away the money we were using to travel to our constituencies as often as we could,” Musasizi lamented.
In the same tone and passion, Aruu County Member of Parliament Odonga Otto told The Sunrise that: “We badly need that tax exemption or else we shall increase our salary as the next option,” Otto said citing Judges and magistrates and Members of the Armed forces who are also tax exempt.
He explained that those pressing to have MPs’ earnings taxed are seeking to have Uganda’s legislators underpaid, which he warned will be a ground for increasing corruption in Parliament
Also warning about what he called consequences of under-paying legislators, he pointed out that it is such a tragic mistake (to underpay legislators)since they are in charge of passing bills, programs and loans associated with billions of shillings and therefore a big temptation for bribery.
Speaking sarcastically, he said thus: “Let them even pay us as low as only Ushs 1m to satisfy the ego of those who want us under paid and we shall spend all the time collecting bribes in billions from those who are dying to give it to us.”