By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
Rwandans have welcomed the government decision to suspend the tax rates on land and immovable properties it had set early last year with approximately 257 per cent increase.
The U-turn announced on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Uzziel Ndagijimana is made after the public outrage that the tax increment was too high for the public to afford even in a situation when more businesses were hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Initially, land taxes were paid at 80 Rwandan Francs per square Meter and was spiked up to 300 Rwandan Francs per Square meter, approximately increasing by 257 per cent.
Following the outrage which also reached to the head of the State when a village leader from one of Kigali city villages raised the land tax issue during the State of the Nation address in December 2020.
The President Paul Kagame then requested authorities to look into the matter and come up with a solution that would benefit both the taxpayer as well as the nation.
The tax land and tax on immovable properties is paid every December of the year but the Government had extended the 2020 taxes to end-March, 2021, a decision extended again to end of April in Tuesday Cabinet meeting.
“The 2020 land tax will be paid based on the tax rates used in 2019. For taxpayers who already paid land tax based on 2021 tax rates, the extra amount paid will be considered for the next tax cycle (2021),” said Dr. Uzziel Ndagijimana, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning,
He added that the new land tax rates would be announced soon and would be the basis for the 2021 tax payment due in December 2021.
The general public as well as activists have welcomed the move by the government to make a u-turn on land and immovable tax rates saying it was a long-overdue decision.
“It was not fair for a taxpayer to increase the land tax and the increase was too high that I could hardly afford it, I have four plots of land I pay tax for, and the money increased about three times if u calculate well,” said Marie Jeanne Mukeshimana, a resident of Kigali city’s Gasabo District.
“Now that the new taxes rates were suspended, I am very grateful and ready to pay the normal taxes even before the extended deadlines,” she added.
Dr. Frank Habineza, a Member of Parliament from the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s opposition party hailed the positive steps taken and called for a long-lasting solution on land-related tax rates.
“We appreciate the positive step taken by the Government by temporarily suspending the implementation of the new property tax law. Let us hope a lasting solution will be found. We will continue to be the voice of the people,” Said Habineza
Marie Immaculee Ingabire, the chairperson of Transparency International, Rwanda Chapter hailed the government for listening to citizens’ concerns and for deciding in their favour.