By Henry Sekanjako
PRIVATE school owners have petitioned parliament over the proposed 30% taxation on all private schools asking government to reconsider the proposal saying it would impact on the quality and development of the country’s education sector.
Presenting their petition to speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday, the private school owners under the umbrella body National Private Educational Institutions Association said that if not revised, the proposal would lead to increment of school fees and expenses which will drive many school children out of school.
“Ever since this proposal was announced by the finance minister, we have never got a peace of mind,” said John Bosco Mujumba, the chairperson National Private Educational Institutions Associations.
In their petition, the owners stated that the proposal was a breach of the Education Act 2008 and income tax which makes the management of private schools similar to government schools and also have a ‘public character’ with the sole purpose of exempting them from tax obligations.
They added that the proposal seeks to legalize what they called the already ongoing unacceptable and illegal levying of endless taxes on private education institutions by the central government and local governments.
“Even though local governments have the power to levy and appropriate taxes under the constitution, both the constitution of Uganda as well as the Local Governments Act are silent on taxes for education institutions,” said Hassan Kilabira, the association’s research officer.
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.
Kadaga poses for a photograph with some of the members of the Private Schools Association shortly after the meeting. Photo by Abu Mwesigwa
“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”.
The private schools owners asked Speaker Kadaga to ensure that parliament doesn’t approve the proposal saying it would affect the attainment of education by poor families.
In her response however, Kadaga welcomed the petition saying it had pertinent issues concerning the education sector in the country.
“I am going to ask the budget committee to look into your petition, it raises very interesting points and they will be fast tracked,” assured Kadaga.
The petitioners were led by education activist also MP Kalungu East Joseph Ssewungu and Rubaga South MP Moses Kasinbante who said tax on private educational institutions was uncalled for.
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.