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Zimbabwe Orders Foreign Satellite Service Companies To Pay Tax

Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government has changed its Finance Bill to allow it to tax foreign satellite service providers such as MultiChoice.

Parliament has agreed to the amendment of Section 14 of the Income Tax Act so that charges and all other monies that are paid to foreign satellite service providers are recognised as income gained from Zimbabwe for the purpose of taxation.

During the debate on the Finance Bill, a few lawmakers had resisted the amendment stating that it was not enough to try to tax only foreign providers of broadcasting services in Zimbabwe.

Tendai Biti, a Harare East Member of Parliament had even proposed that the Act be amended so that the way that income tax is calculated in Zimbabwe moves from the residents to the source.
However, this was not the first time that the government had suggested the source-based approach.
In 2013, Parliament approved a new Income Tax Act which had introduced the revolutionary method of calculating tax from the residents to source.
While it had been popular with both houses of parliament, then president Robert Mugabe had allegedly refused to sign it.

Biti reasoned that thousands of Zimbabweans were watching and paying lots of money to foreign suppliers of broadcasting services all because of the poor programming offered by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
A lawmaker, Edwin Mushoriwa also supported Biti’s call to open up the airwaves.

Finance minister reiterated that the clause was exclusively about the foreign service providers and not domestic providers.
Despite opposition from a few MPs, ultimately the majority of the lawmakers endorsed the amendment.

Media surveys have shown that the majority of Zimbabweans still rely heavily on the State-owned ZBC television and radio stations for news and information.
Although a number of Zimbabweans have access to MultiChoice programming, many cannot afford the service.

The State has, in more recent years, awarded radio licences to entities connected to the government and the nation’s ruling party in an attempt garner support from the citizens.

Zimbabwe, with only one national television station, is behind the rest of the continent when it comes to broadcasting plurality, despite it being the second African country — following Nigeria — to introduce a television service in 1960.

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