In early December 2019, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion announced the scrapping of Value Added Tax scrap on sanitary pads. The move was widely welcomed as it was meant to facilitate affordability and accessibility of the pads.
Moving to the right direction,from now onwards, the Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability.@RwandaFinance, @rrainfo@RwandaLocalGov@RwandaHealth,@rbarwanda,@NewTimesRwanda,@IGIHE,@ktpressrwanda— Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion|Rwanda (@RwandaGender) December 10, 2019
Two months later, The New Times learnt that despite the waiver, consumers are still paying VAT and the price remained unchanged and even increased in some cases.
On asking a random shop owner in Kigali why the bill still indicated that VAT is paid, he had no answer.
“I heard the announcement a few months ago, but the prices never changed. I also don't know why,” he said.
Josephine Uwamariya, 21, finds it difficult to afford one pack of pads each month. She is a house-help and except when her female boss assists her, she uses pieces of cloth. When she heard the VAT waiver announcement she was relieved and expected the price to fall.
“I am actually baffled how some prices are rising instead. There is a brand I used to buy for Rwf600 but it now costs Rwf700. I am wondering what happened to the waiver,” she said.
RRA denies collecting VAT on pads
Manipulating Electronic Billing Machine is punishable by law and is considered as an intention to evade taxes. Their regulation falls under Rwanda Revenue Authority’s responsibility. An EBM-generated-receipt bears all applicable taxes of a commodity including VAT which is earmarked for RRA.
The New Times verified that VAT is still being levied on sanitary pads sold on the local market. On purchasing sanitary pads in several stores in Kigali priced between Rwf 700 and Rwf 1000, EBM-generated receipts featured VAT as an applicable tax.
For instance, for a pack of ‘Best Ladies’ pads priced at Rwf 700, the VAT levied was Rwf 106, according to the receipt.
However, RRA insists that VAT is no longer levied since the waiver announcement in December which was meant to take immediate effect. It explained that shop owners are responsible for resetting EBM gadgets with details on applicable commodities and taxes.
“VAT was immediately removed after the announcement in December. We no longer collect the tax on sanitary pads,” Drocella Mukashyaka, Deputy Commissioner for Taxpayer Services Department said, adding that RRA is not in charge of inspecting the effectiveness of the waiver.
The disparity is further complicated by the expectation by producers who say that the prices should have come down since the VAT waiver. Producers say that at the production level, VAT was waived but at the retail level, it is still levied.
Nzitundi Cyprien, an Accountant at Safari Center that produces Supa pads told this publication that the price fell by almost 15 per cent when the VAT was removed. He, however, admitted that the company did not follow up with retailers and inspect the prices on the ground. Nonetheless, consumers remain victims as they continue paying a nonexistent tax.
In a phone interview, Rwanda Consumer’s Rights Protection Organization said they had no knowledge about the situation and promised to undertake a follow-up.
According to UNICEF, over 18 per cent of girls in Rwanda miss on average 3 to 5 days of school because they can't access menstrual products.
Rwanda’s move to scrap VAT was in response to an East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) resolution that was passed in August 2013 urging all partner states to waive taxes on sanitary pads so as to increase their availability and affordability for young girls. Rwanda’s move followed that of Tanzania and Kenya.Follow Ange_Iliza