KIREHE - Customs officials at Rwanda-Tanzanian border of Rusumo say regional traders have started enjoying tax cuts for goods originating from within the East African Community ever since the Common Market protocol became operational on July 1.
Speaking to The New Times on Monday, Charles Bisengimana, a customs officer, said goods wholly or partially produced by member states, are given preferential treatment, provided the owners carry valid EAC Certificate of Origin.
“Goods produced in EAC; only pay 5% withholding tax, 18% VAT and 0% customs duty,” he said. “This is virtually zero tax…for example; sugar used to pay100% customs duties, which is no more.”
The officials further revealed that taxes on goods not produced in EAC, but whose value is added in one of the member states, too, get preferential treatment.
“It is true that some goods are not wholly produced in EAC, but if the value added is 35% plus, we consider material added,” Bisengimana revealed.
Traders said the time spent clearing their goods has also subsequently reduced ever since the common market was launched.
Abdallah Twalib Amani, a truck driver plying the Dar-es-salaam-Kigali route, told The New Times that he was overwhelmed by the little time he now spends at the border.
“I used to stay hours and days queuing for clearance, but as you see, I have just come, and in a couple of minutes I will be proceeding to Kigali. Unlike in the past when it was the direct opposite,” he said.
Though traders are exempted from some taxes, it is yet to be translated into reduced prices of goods on the market.
Richard Uwayezu, a resident of Kabarondo laments the continued high prices of goods that are produced in the EAC.
“Traders are cheating us for sure. A Dodoma or Arusha made mattress that used to pay tax of Rwf21,000, now pays Rwf 7,000, sugar pays 0% customs duty, yet retail price remains the same. The government must intervene,” he said.