Uganda: Don't Make Up Losses To Avoid Tax

Last Updated: 1 October 2019
Article by Steven K. Mugisha

Conflicting interests arise for many businesses where decisions have to be made to determine how they consistently achieve profitability, while on the other hand minimise payment of tax. The temptation to minimise profits or even make a loss then becomes a tax risk management strategy.

Some businesses that are aggressive tax planners employ several methods some of which do not resonate with ethical business practices. Many organisations are involved in tax avoidance, which by the way is not very different from evasion. If you ask me; they both involve scheming and dodging.

Creation of tax losses may be seen in some cases where interest payments are made in relation to borrowings from a parent company. In other instances, prices at which raw materials or equipment are transferred to group members are fixed; and in others, the costs charged by shared service centres are too high.

Those, especially not part of a group may, for example, include personal expenditure within the books of the business. These and others are the things companies do to create losses so as to avoid income tax. This is not to discount the fact that ' businesses do incur losses in genuine and legitimate transactions.

In the June 2018 proposed tax reforms, there was a Bill that required consistent. loss makers to pay a 0.50/o income tax on gross income. This would apply to those entities that would have made a loss for seven years running. The tax would become payable in the eighth year of consecutive loss making. This proposal was not passed into law because it was regarded as unfair to struggling but committed investors. There was a feeling too that wider consultations had not been made then.

After a year of shelving it, this proposal is here again and should it be signed into law (which is very likely) effective July 2019, deliberate loss makers will have to rethink their tax strategy.

There are many businesses that "force" a loss so as not to pay tax. It may be better for a business to declare a profit because taxing profits may be more efficient than taxing gross revenue. It is, therefore, possible that the 0.50/o tax on turnover could be way much higher than the legitimate tax of 300/o of taxable profits.

Even if there are still questions around this proposal, for example whether withholding tax is allowed as a credit in these circumstances, consistent creation of a tax loss may no longer be fashionable.

Withholding of VAT

Another reform that had been introduced last year but later halted was the requirement to withhold Value Added Tax (VAT) from invoices issued by suppliers. The finance minister had gazetted those entities that would withhold VAT and submit it to URA. However, many thought that as a country, we needed further consultations to address any shortcomings and think through how this would be operationalised.

Unlike the law that was halted which required designated agents to withhold the entire amount of VAT (18%) on the invoice, this time · around, the proposal is to withhold one third of it. This reduction seems to be mindful of the cash flow problems and the unnecessary processing of refunds that the old proposal would have created.

It was also possible with the original proposal for distributors to withhold VAT from their bigger suppliers but in my opinion money is safer in the hands of the big multinational corporations. The revision, therefore, has the possibility. of having some entities as VAT withholding exempt in a similar fashion like the current withholding tax system.

Save for relatively smaller companies that have been · granted express permission to account for VAT on cash basis; with the current system, VAT is payable even if the client has not yet paid. Suppliers will embrace the change because it ·takes away part of the pressure to submit VAT on sales even before cash collection.

However, extra working capital requirements will arise on the part of the VAT withholding agent if the new changes are effected, because URA must receive these funds within a certain period, short of which interest kicks in. ·

Previously, clients would negotiate longer credit days · and this then meant that the pressure to pay VAT is on the supplier regardless of collections. We see this pressure shifting to the withholding agents (the clients) as they must observe payment timelines.

It is believed that now wider consultations have been made to address any misgivings that had been previously anticipated by the introduction of the proposals and Government will be ready to implement them.

My appeal to our businesses, therefore, is to rethink strategy, train staff and do all that is needed to plan early so that these and other reforms do not shock our businesses. Is the loss still worth making?

Originally published by New Vision, May 9 2019.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions