By Mary Machocho and Umaru Kashaka
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party has asked Government not to let the calls of private school owners against new taxes fall on deaf ears because they can negatively affect the education system in the country.
Addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Najjanankumbi, FDC spokesperson John Kikonyogo said since MPs have got a final say on the proposed taxes in the 2014/15 Budget, they should compel Government to withdraw the taxes.
“This measure is going to burden poor parents and add pressure on the already crowded public institutions. Private school owners are also going to cut down on the number of teachers being recruited in their schools,” he said.
Reading the 2014/15 National Budget last month, Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka said government would terminate income tax exemptions that education institutions have been enjoying as a way of raising domestic revenue. It proposed a 30% taxation on profits made by all private schools.
However private school owners have since opposed the proposal saying it would make education for the poor parents expensive since many schools are likely to hike fees to cover the tax and operational costs.
“Why should government tax us honestly? They should visit some of these schools and see the hustle we go through to pay teachers. The money we get from parents is not enough, we operate these schools because we want to see a Ugandan child attain an education,” said Noella Namukasa, the Director Novicc Primary School in Masaka.
Wilberforce Luutu, the director Ntawo Bright Grammer School Mukono said; “These taxes are too high, we hardly get any profits, we are just trying to help our communities”.
In her response to the petition over taxes however, Kadaga said that she was going to ask the budget committee to look into the private schools’ petition, noting that the petition raises very interesting points and they will be fast tracked.
The Finance ministry has, however, insisted that private schools will pay the new income tax, despite protests from school owners.
Ministry Spokesman Jim Mugunga told the media recently that the tax exemption had not relieved parents of the high fees charged in those schools, although that had been its intention.
“Let someone from a private school show us a pay slip where school fees has been less than the term before. It will instead be showing an increment,” Mugunga said.
Statistics indicate that there are at least 20,000 private schools across the country and with most schools in Kampala. Majority of the private schools charge higher fees than the public ones because they are perceived to offer better services.
Listen to private school owners, says FDC