Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Last week the honourable members of parliament passed a law which exempted their allowances from tax.

In 2013 a whistleblower sued the attorney general because the parliamentary commission was not paying tax on MPs allowances. In February the commercial court ruled that the MPs allowances should be taxed and that the parliamentary commission, which handles their payments, should remit taxes on these from 2004.

During the Kyankwnazi retreat a few weeks ago President Yoweri Museveni said there would be no salary increments for public servants including MPs.

Now usually reliable sources are warning that MPs are planning to amend the Income Tax act to place them among those group of workers listed there that are exempt from taxation on their incomes, like soldiers, who risk life and limb so we can live in peace.

"MPs have to have the best job in this country. Not only can they decide how much they will get paid but they can also decide that they need not pay taxes...

I would love to hear why the honourable members believe they are worthy of a tax exemption on their income.

Off the top of my head, you sue for tax exemption if you are going to create jobs, set up a totally new industry from scratch or going to boost economic activity in a remote area. There are many other reasons of course including that you are unable to be gainfully employed or in the old days,  you could be exempt from graduated tax if you were impotent.

This is an important discussion for this county on many fronts but two immediately leap to mind.

One of the slogans against colonialism was that there would be no taxation without representation. The agitators argued, and rightly so, that how could a group of people collect taxes and appropriate funds ostensibly in the people’s benefit, when the people have no say not only about the spending of the money, but also the taxes to be levied.

Never mind that the colonialist – many of whom were genuine dogooders, believed they knew what was best for the colonies.

Similarly these MPs who think they are above paying theirtaxes are not representing us. They could argue that they are representing the 80 percent of us not paying taxes but then again where would they be leading us. Retrogressively into the pre-industrial age or progressively into a more developed nation?

"Leading from that, have they forgotten that they are leaders? Okay it’s a bit hard to remember that when you are dozing during parliamentary sessions or heckling the front bench or just plain behaving dishonourably --- even us the onlookers, forget they are leaders, seeing as the evidence is often hard to come by...

Taxes are the cost we pay for development. Of course in countries like ours where grubby fingered, public servants help themselves to a disproportionate portion of our taxes it is a hard argument to make, but the principle still holds. And besides you do not fix the problem by not paying taxes altogether.

Taxes pay for security, physical and social infrastructure which goods allow us to generate more revenues to build more infrastructure --- a virtuous cycle, which if handled properly should lead to improvements in living standards for everybody.

So when MPs plot to abdicate their responsibility what are us mere mortals – who also happen to be their employers, supposed to do? The slippery slope of massive tax evasion beckons. And who will call us to book? The MPs?

Somebody needs to rein in the honourable ladies and gentlemen of parliament before the hurt themselves (which may not be a bad thing) but more importantly before they hurt us (if they are not already doing so).

For starters someone has to bell the cat.

Let us have an independent commission to determine MPs salaries. Unfortunately MPs may have to put this structure in place and we all know that monkeys are incapable of passing judgement on the forest.

Secondly, we need to cut the MP numbers. The fallacy that the MP is a benefit to his community has been demystified. MPs themselves after promising their electorate the 67 moons of Jupiter, then turn around and plead that bringing services to the people is not their job – by that time of course, they are pulling down sh20m a month and in the near future, God forbid, tax free income.

"It’s hard enough to build a nation with low revenue collections, an epidemic of corruption in the society and stone throwing allies doing so, from the comfort of their glass houses, without our very own MPs fighting for slobbering rights at the trough of the national treasury....

I know it’s a lost cause appealing to the MPs altruistic natures but somebody has to say it:

STOP! Honourables. In the name of all that is good and right, before you pull us all down into the mud with you.

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