Cameroonians will have to pay customs duties on mobile phones and tablets, effective from 1st October 2020. This development announced on 29th September 2020 by Mme Minette Libom Li Likeng, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, is in fulfilment of Article Seven of the Finance Act for the fiscal year 2019.
The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Mme Minette Libom made the announcement via her Twitter account, by sharing a communique. This joint Communique issued in partnership with the Ministry of Finance seeks to inform consumers, importers and the business community of the effective implementation, as of 1 October 2020, of this new system for collecting customs duties and taxes by digital means on the tech gadgets highlighted above.
According to this Joint Decision No. 247/MINFI-DGD/MINPOSTEL-IG, which was established on 13th March 2020, terms have been set out on
the levying of such duties and taxes, directly by telephone operators operating in Cameroon, through a dedicated government platform. As a vehicle for securing customs revenues, tax citizenship, voluntary compliance of importers and consumers, it is an innovative tax collection scheme that should also contribute to securing the means of communication in Cameroon, based on these principles.Joint Communique of Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications and Ministry of Finance
Importers and sellers of mobile phones and tablets are advised to make payments through the digital system created by the government, as this new platform informs Customs Administration when payments are made. This is so that importers can void facing double taxation at the terminals. The importer can make payments of the fees on the spot and in such a case, the importer gets a customs declaration and immediately proceeds to pay the duties and customs’ taxes due.
Importers and sellers who have stocks of already cleared phones are required, under penalty of foreclosure, to declare their stock to the customs administration’s using the inventory platform. The Digital Collection Platform for Duty and Customs Taxes on phones, mobile phones automatically offers the consumer a billing option (payment in full or phased payment of fees due) depending on the type of phone.
Those exempt from paying these taxes are people whose mobile phones have already been in use in Cameroon and have already been connected at least once to a telephone network of a local telephone operator, before 16 October 2020. These would be considered “cleared” and are therefore not affected by the new system.
For those travelling or visiting Cameroon temporarily and use their phones and tablets in “e-roaming mode”; their mobile phones are also exempt from the levy.
There are penalties for importers and sellers who fall foul of the new regulations, if they do not pay their duties, fail to display and/or inform consumers of the status of their phones. Are their phones or other electronic tablets “cleared or not” at the time of purchase or acquisition?
The government has set-up a freephone service to allow consumers to address any requests and complaints.
Therefore, telephone operators, institutional bodies and all other stakeholders in this process are invited to take, each as far as it is concerned, the arrangements for the efficient implementation of this scheme from 1st October 2020.indicates the communique
The communique was jointly signed by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mme Minette Libom and Minister of Finance, Louis Paul MOTAZE.
Cameroonians both at home and in the diaspora have reacted with confusion and anger. The Queen of Africa Tech herself Rebecca Enonchong bluntly calling it a ‘bad decision’. She wrote that the only way she understood this new law was the fact that Cameroon will increase taxes on its digital economy, thereby making phones more expensive and less accessible.
Others in their fury called this rent-seeking behaviour by the state which was discouraging entrepreneurship in the country and highly unlikely to promote long-lasting investments that lead to job creation and wealth.
There were those who opined that for a sector that has yet to be fully developed, the exorbitant taxing will clip it at the knees. Internet connection remains rather poor and expensive in Cameroon and there is a concern that this new development will only handicap to the private sector.
There was confusion as to whether phones that have not gone through custom, can be able to receive and make calls with a Cameroon SIM card.
Many others saw this as an attempt by the state to fill the state coffers.
There was no ENGLISH version of this text even after several requests from Cameroonians who do not understand French.