Editorial: Where is the illegal VAT charged on sanitary pads ending up?

A month or so ago MTN-Rwanda CEO threw a challenge that went viral in a short space of time. The aim was to get people to donate smartphones for households without one in order to get access to government services since most of them have gone online.

Within a short while, over 35,000 phones had been donated and distribution began. It is understandable that the biggest winner was Mara phone as most people showed off their nationalistic colours by supporting a Made in Rwanda phone.

Shortly afterward, someone else launched another challenge that was equally widely supported. It was to donate sanitary pads to school girls and it was just as urgent; according to UNICEF, nearly one in five girls misses an average of between three and five days of school because they don’t have access to menstrual products.

So, in a bid to make them easily available, the government announced in December last year that it had scrapped Value Added Tax (VAT) on them. But surprisingly, two months down the road, VAT is still being charged and no one seems to be moved.

In research carried in several shops by the New Times, all the Electronic Billing Machines (EBMs) indicate that VAT was charged.  Surprisingly, Rwanda Revenue Authority denies that they charge VAT, so where does the money ending up?

But even more perplexing is when a senior RRA official says that their mandate does not include enforcing the tax waiver. If that is the case, at least it should be worried that some people are ripping off the population in the tax collector’s name. Something is utterly wrong.


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