Large Number of Shops Remain Open Despite Traders Call for Countrywide Sit-Down Strikes Over EFRIS

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Majority of the shops and supermarkets in the outskirts of Kampala and the rest of the country have remained open despite a national-wide call by traders’ associations, urging traders to close their shops to show discontent over the Electronic Fiscal Invoice and Receipting Solution (EFRIS) system and unfair tax levies by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

Leaders of traders’ associations hoped that a national-wide strike would force the government to retract some of the taxes and withdraw the EFRIS system, which was introduced to track business transactions for proper tax levying.

According to Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) spokesperson Issa Sekito, the taxes imposed, along with the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT) tracking system and the increasing involvement of foreigners in businesses that would traditionally be run by locals, have left them with no option but to close shops.

However, since the beginning of the strike, there have been a few shops in downtown Kampala that have closed while it is business as usual on the outskirts of Kampala, like Kireka, Kalerwe, and Nakawa, and shops in all towns across the country have remained open. The traders whose shops remain open despite a call to join the sit-down strike argue that closing their shops will tantamount to undesirable losses, yet their leaders can resolve the impasse by engaging in talks with the authorities.

Some of the traders from Kikuubo whose shops are closed have expressed anger with arcade owners and association leaders for forcing them to close their shops while others are working.

“Even though we all have concerns about EFRIS, you can’t force me to close my shop in Kikuubo and leave other shops working across the country, yet we are all going to be affected by the system in the same way,” Vincent Ssemakula, a shop owner in Kikuubo, stated, adding that some of those forcing them to close have their shops up and running in other parts of town.

According to Ibrahim Bbossa, the public relations officer for URA, the majority of those complaining about VAT actually don’t pay it since, according to Bbossa, only 33,000 entities and individuals in the country pay VAT. He adds that EFRIS is designed for those traders evading VAT, and it’s essential to educate them about its operation.

Economists argue that since Uganda is among the countries with the lowest tax burden in the whole world, ranking at number 140, it’s imperative to widen the tax base and strengthen tax collection mechanisms; however, stakeholders like traders and manufacturers should always be brought up to speed by the tax collection authority before enforcing new measures.

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