Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube should scrap the US$50 temporary and refundable tax imposed on mobile phones, MPs and analysts attending a post budget seminar suggested on Tuesday.
Prof Ncube presented his budget before Parliament last Thursday and proposed the introduction of the US$50 duty fee on cellphones but with that tax being refunded within 30 days if import duty had been paid on the cellphone when it was imported. The Minister introduced the tax to make smuggled phones closer in price to legally imported phones. If import duty was not paid when the phone was imported the Treasury will keep the US$50.
However, despite the fact that the refundable levy is designed to curb smuggling and will be refunded to those buying legally-imported phones, buyers will still be out of pocket for the US$50 while the checks are being made. The levy will be paid through the mobile operator when the phone is activated to accept the SIM card.
Senate deputy president Lieutenant-General (Retired) Mike Nyambuya also proposed a review of the mobile phone levy saying efforts should be made to promote e-learning.
“The Levy of US$50 on cell phone handsets to be collected will discourage the use ICTs especially in a time when we want to speed up e-learning in remote areas. I therefore call upon the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to review the levy proposal on cell phones. Other countries are actually zero rating these gadgets to support usage in line with the digital revolution so that ‘no one is left behind,’ he said.
Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira said the mobile phone tax proposal had been rejected at the pre-budget seminar held in Victoria Falls last month.
“We rejected the proposal and I am surprised that he included it in the budget. What does it mean to the adoption of e-learning?” Chief Charumbira said.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (independent) urged MPs not to pass the budget, saying it was unrealistic.
Economist Gift Mugano said the new albeit temporary tax was harsh and against the spirit of a digital economy that Government was trying to promote.
Meanwhile, Portfolio and Thematic Committees yesterday began hearings from line ministries and other entities on the allocations they received in the 2022 budget.
Prof Ncube presented a $927 billion budget from requests fromm line ministries of $2,7 trillion.
Yesterday Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri said her office had been allocated $3,01 billion from a bid of $7,3 billion.
She said while the allocation was in line with international standards of allocating 0,1 percent of total budgets to audit offices, the money was not enough to cater for the needs of her office especially improving conditions of service for employees.