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Frequently Asked Questions: A guide on doing business tax in Uganda

Uganda has a unique tax system that businesses operating within its borders must navigate. I have interacted with different people who are enthusiastic about doing business in Uganda. They almost ask the same questions over and over at different intervals. I have compiled a set of frequently asked questions about business taxation in Uganda, providing valuable insights to help entrepreneurs better understand and manage their tax obligations.

Joshua Kato, the writer
  1. What is taxation on business?
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A tax is a payment made by individuals and businesses to the government. It is used for funding public spending on education, infrastructure, healthcare, defence, etc.

  1. Who collects taxes in Uganda?

Taxes in Uganda are centrally assessed and collected by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), headed by a Commissioner General. Businesses interact with the URA for tax registration, filing returns, and seeking clarification on tax matters. Staying informed about URA guidelines is essential for seamless compliance.

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  1. Who is supposed to pay taxes in Uganda?

In Uganda, income tax applies generally to all types of persons who derive income, whether an individual, bodies of individuals, or corporate entities. Resident persons are taxed on worldwide income, while non-resident persons are taxed only on income derived from sources in Uganda. Income tax is imposed on three broad categories of income – Business income, Employment income and Property income. Most of the taxes imposed are self-assessed. The self-assessment system imposes on the taxpayer, in the first instance, responsibility for calculating taxable income and the tax due on that income. The taxpayer's calculations may however be reviewed by revenue officials when returns are filed and may be subject to further audit.

  1. What types of taxes do businesses in Uganda typically pay?

In Uganda, businesses may be subject to various taxes, including corporate income tax, value-added tax (VAT), withholding tax, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and local government taxes. Each tax serves a distinct purpose in contributing to the country's economic development.

  1. How does the Ugandan tax system impact different business structures?
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The Ugandan tax system recognizes various business structures, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. Each structure has different tax implications, influencing how income is assessed and taxed.

  1. What is the threshold for VAT registration in Uganda?

Businesses with an annual turnover exceeding UGX 150 million must register for VAT in Uganda. Understanding and complying with VAT regulations is crucial for businesses looking to avoid penalties and remain tax-compliant.

  1. How does the withholding tax system work in Uganda?

Withholding tax is applicable to various transactions, such as dividends, interest, and royalties. Businesses need to understand the rates, exemptions, and procedures associated with withholding tax to fulfill their obligations and avoid legal complications.

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  1. How does Uganda encourage investment through tax incentives?

Uganda offers various tax incentives to encourage investment, such as tax holidays, reduced corporate income tax rates for specific industries, and allowances for capital expenditure. Understanding and leveraging these incentives can significantly benefit your business.

  1. What are the penalties for non-compliance with tax regulations in Uganda?

Non-compliance with tax regulations in Uganda can result in penalties, fines, and even legal action. Businesses need to prioritize timely and accurate filing to avoid financial repercussions and maintain a positive relationship with tax authorities.

  1. How does Uganda handle international taxation for businesses with cross-border operations?
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Ugandan businesses engaged in international transactions are subject to specific tax considerations. Understanding transfer pricing rules, double taxation agreements, and reporting requirements is vital for businesses with global operations.

  1. What is the role of digital taxation in Uganda's evolving economy?

With the rise of digital commerce, Uganda has implemented digital taxation measures. Businesses involved in e-commerce and digital services must grasp the implications of these taxes, ensuring compliance with evolving regulations.

  1. How can businesses in Uganda optimize their tax position legally?

Leveraging available deductions, credits, and incentives, as well as adopting sound accounting practices, can help businesses in Uganda minimize their tax liability legally. Staying informed about changes in tax laws and seeking professional advice are also critical for optimal tax planning.

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  1. Are there any import/export regulations?

The core regulation governing the import and export frontiers in Uganda is the regional statute enacted by the East African Legislative Assembly, the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004 (EACCMA). In addition, Uganda has enacted the Excise Duty Act, 2014, which is a duty on imports and exports of goods. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has the mandate to collect taxes and supervise and implement tax laws in Uganda.

  1. How are the following taxed?

Dividends paid to foreign corporate shareholders?

Dividends payable to non-resident persons are subject to withholding tax at the rate of 15%.

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Dividends received from foreign companies?

Dividends received from foreign companies are subject to withholding tax at the rate of 15%.

Interest paid to foreign corporate shareholders?

Interest payable to non-resident persons is subject to withholding tax at the rate of 15%.

Intellectual property (IP) royalties paid to foreign corporate shareholders?

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IP royalties paid to foreign corporate shareholders is subject to withholding tax at the rate of 15%.

  1. Are there any thin capitalization rules (restrictions on loans from foreign affiliates)?

Yes, there are thin capitalization rules that relate to the interest payable by the company during the year of income. This is deductible on the part of debt that exceeds the 1.5 to 1 debt to equity ratio for the period the ratio was exceeded. Section 25 of the Income Tax Act as amended, provides that the amount of deductible interest in respect of all debts owed by a taxpayer who is a member of a group shall not exceed 30% of the tax earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. It further provides that a tax payer whose interest exceeds 30% of the tax earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization may only carry forward the excess interest for not more than three years and the excess interest shall be treated as incurred during the next year of income.

  1. Are there any transfer pricing rules?

The Income Tax (Transfer Pricing) Regulations set the rules for transfer pricing in Uganda. The Regulations are applicable to transactions between associates where one party to the transaction is located in and is subject to tax in Uganda and the other party to the transaction is located in or is outside Uganda. The Regulations seek to ensure that no party enjoys tax benefits as a result of non-arm’s length terms and conditions of a transaction. There are no specific transfer pricing penalties. However, the Commissioner of Taxes can conduct an audit, make adjustments in the taxable profit, and demand tax where applicable.

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  1. How are imports and exports taxed?

Customs duty - Customs duty is charged on goods imported into Uganda depending on their assessed customs value.

Value added tax - Value added tax (VAT) is chargeable on goods and services imported into Uganda unless the goods or services are exempted from VAT. The standard rate is 18%. Zero rating and exemption from VAT is granted sparingly to essential goods and services.

Excise duty - Excise duty is chargeable on the importation of goods that are classified as excisable goods pursuant to the Excise Duty Act, 2014 at the rate prescribed in the Act.

  1. Which network of double tax treaties does Uganda have?
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Currently, Uganda has a number of double taxation treaties with: Demark, the EAC, Egypt, India, Italy, Mauritius, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zambia. Double taxation treaties are pending with: Belgium, China, Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.

Navigating Uganda's business tax landscape requires a deep understanding of the country's tax regulations and policies. This FAQ guide serves as a valuable resource, shedding light on key aspects of business taxation in Uganda. By staying informed and proactively managing their tax obligations, businesses can contribute to Uganda's economic growth while ensuring their own financial sustainability.

The writer is a chartered tax advisor and accountant

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