At least 33 media houses have jointly sued the government and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), challenging the double taxation on trading licences despite numerous court decisions declaring such actions illegal.
The media houses are Radio One, Akaboozi, Radio Simba, Basoga Baino FM, Digida, Buddu FM, Capital Radio, Hot 100.9 FM, Galaxy FM Limited, Signal FM, KFM and Dembe FM, Namirembe FM Limited, XFM, Bukedde FM, NBS TV, NBS Khodeyo and Open Gate FM.
The others are Power FM, Sanyu FM, Touch FM, Spice FM, Voice of Kigezi, Super Station Inc Limited, Radio City, Voice of Toro, Vision Radio, Radio Pacis Liberty FM Limited, Crooze FM, Voice of Kamwenge, BBS TV, NTV Uganda and Uganda Media Owners Association.
Through their lawyers; Ayigihugu and Company Advocates, the media houses challenged the government for continuing to charge them trading licences for operating in and outside Kampala and running satellite connections. They argue that they already pay license fees to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and subjecting them to another tax tantamount to double taxation.
Radio stations operating in Kampala are charged a trading licence fee ranging between Shs 300,000 and Shs 1.5 million, while satellite connections run by television states are charged between Shs 390,000 and Shs 1.5 million every year, according to the KCCA grading system.
This is on top of the payments for the commercial radio license paid to UCC. A national radio pays an annual fee of Shs 7 million, each FM radio from Kampala pays Shs 5.6 million annually, those in Mbarara, Jinja, Lira, Mbale, Arua, Soroti, Gulu, Fort Portal, and Masaka pay Shs 4.2 million each annually, while radio stations from other parts of the country pay Shs 3.5 million annually. Community radios on the other hand pay Shs 1.4 million in annual license fees.
But the management of the stations argue that the court has previously issued several decisions saying that it was illegal for companies that pay licences to the regulators and be subjected to payments of other trading licences from the areas they operate from.
They referred to the cases filed by Uganda Law Society against KCCA, Kampala Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda against the Attorney General, NC Bank Uganda and 24 others against KCCA and Uganda Cleaning Industry and Forwarding Association against the KCCA and the Attorney General.
In the said cases, most of which the decisions were delivered by justice Musa Ssekaana in 2020, the court held that once a company pays license fees set by the regulator, it is illegal to subject the same company to the payment of trading licence fees in any part of the country.
But the media houses allege that they are continually issued with demand notices to pay for trading licenses to local governments. They now want the court to interpret whether KCCA or the municipalities from where they are operating have the mandate to continue with the levy and whether those operating in Kampala are entitled to a refund of the monies paid since 2017.
“That the plaintiffs being in that category of business and trade which are already licenced by the central government’s agent, in this case, the Uganda Communications Commission and the amendment is illegal, irrational and amounts to double oppressive taxation and the Minister acted ultra vires in amending schedule”, reads the suit in part.
Each of the media houses operating in Kampala has produced receipts of trading licenses paid since 2017 and they have so far paid a combined total of Shs 94.5 million which they are now seeking to recover. The case which is supported by an affidavit of Evelyn Ochakachon the secretary-general of Uganda Media Owners Association is yet to be allocated to the judge to fix it for hearing.