Is Uganda leading or losing the race of taxing Social Media?

Social media taxes – Myth or Reality???

Nothing is certain but Death and Taxes. As we go through the busy and stressful Tax season here in India, though CBDT has given Indians a respite by extending the date of filing to August 31, Uganda has kindled a mini revolution of its own by introducing taxes on Social Media. While such discussions have been around for a while, Uganda has taken the charge in going ahead and implementing this. While Ugandans are occupied fighting their war against social media taxes, with open demonstrations in Kampala, this discussion does make up a great case for setting up “The Debate with Arnab Goswami”.

Social Media is now all pervasive more than ever. The benefits along with the ill effects of Social Media have been spoken, debated and challenged in detail, though the need to have a structured approach needs to be done sooner than later.

“With the number of smartphone users expected to reach 382 Million by 2018, (Source: Statista 2018) largely due to falling phone prices and Government’s Digital India programme, the government can bring in a large portion of Indian population under the tax net”, as per Tax Consultant and Director at EnPointe Adwisers Vaibhav Gupta. In his view, “If India also goes the Uganda way, an additional levy of even a paltry amount of INR 1 per day per Smartphone User on use of mobile internet for social media would bring in INR 14,000 crores every year as additional funds to the Government, with a nominal hit of INR 30 per month for the mobile user.”

In this world of artificial intelligence where the concept of smart phones has been extended to smart homes, where Siri and Alexa are providing answers to questions, where Twitter provides expression to our resentment, where Instagram provides an opportunity to raise donations through sharing pictures, where Tinder determines the rightness of our prospective dating partner, the question remains to be asked if we are losing touch with our ‘real’ social interactions.
No matter how much an individual thinks of him to be tactful in managing the online community, when it comes to interacting with the society offline, we need a set of additional social skills. The paucity of opportunity to use the skills of interpersonal intelligence (in a spontaneous face to face interaction), the art of communication (real body language as against emojis) and the knowledge of human behaviour (dealing differently with different people) in the online interactions may disable an individual to use the tact in his actual social world.

In wake of this completely compulsive stimulation, perhaps the levying of taxes will help recondition people’s sociaal behaviour. The tax implementation may help people to reduce their ‘On screen’ time, spend more time on physical activities for leisure and prevent themselves from self-sabotaging due to the bandwagon effect (like, share and comment to fit into the social media community). Also the inflated expense due to taxes and the negative psychosocial outcomes (like depression, anxiety and severe isolation) as a result of cyber bullying and hacking maybe kept in check. In light of the economic and psychosocial impact of the prospective trend laid down by one country, it may seem fair if the Government of other countries were to take a step forward towards it.
“In India, common man is already paying taxes at the rate of 18% in the form of GST on the mobile internet charges, apart from all other direct and indirect taxes, any additional levy may not be welcomed by the commoners from an economic perspective”, said Mr. Gupta. Given that the Government and Opposition rely heavily on Social Media, this does seem a far fetched reality.

There is no denying the fact that social media has proved to be an invaluable tool for the masses in the last one and a half decade. The big question is, in today’s world, where social media has become an integral part of one’s moment by moment personal and professional need, how relevant and socially acceptable would it be to levy the social media tax? Does this rob people of their right to freedom of speech and expression?
Has this debate already won or lost through “SOCIAL MEDIA”.

Do share your comments and suggestions. You can inbox me or email at draastha@counsoul.in for a free copy of a presentation on how to imbibe Social Media in our daily lives.