Schelde Basketball Hoops Credit: Courtesy

Participating in sports is a very expensive venture for the ordinary Ugandan. Since the majority of sports equipment is imported, this incurs taxes which increases the final price of the equipment, facilities and sports related activities.

The government of Uganda has taken strides to develop other sectors like agriculture, tourism and computer related studies by exempting them from taxes, while sports is still underdeveloped and currently has minimum contribution to our economy. A tax exemption on sports equipment and activities would greatly develop sports and place it among the main contributors to Uganda’s economy.

Sports is a billion dollar industry, this alone should be a light bulb moment to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the government that Uganda too can be part of that billion dollar industry. IAAF athletes, Tennis players on the ATP/WTA annual tours, F1 drivers, Boxers, Swimmers, Football players and many other professional sportsmen earn millions of dollars annually. How much taxes would U.R.A collect from that? For that to happen, the sports sector in Uganda has to be developed.

At the moment it’s very hard for youngsters to stay into sports because equipment is expensive, sports facilities are of very low standards and pose as a health risk in most cases. How many boxers lack mouth guards? How many rugby players can’t afford rugby specific boots and safe goal posts? How many swimmers can’t have access to Olympic standard pools? How many tennis players can’t afford to change racquets? How many basketball and volleyball players can live with having to work on tarmac courts? How much money does FUFA have to pay in taxes for a donated artificial turf? How many footballers can’t afford boots and sheen guards? How many ladies participating in sports can’t afford sports bras?

On Thursday 14th December 2017, URA invited Uganda broadcasters to a breakfast meeting in which it was revealed that out of the 8,000,000 potential tax payers in Uganda, only 1,150,000 actually pay taxes. In the meeting URA was trying to outline how to reduce the tax burden on the few tax payers and how to get the rest of the 8,000,000 to pay taxes. Although it’s possible that tax evasion and URA’s inability to collect taxes from the informal sector might be the major reasons, sports being under developed and belonging to the informal sector contributes a part.

A developed sports sector would employ a lot of people because sportsmen don’t wait for employment, a sportsperson is always employed. How much would that help in reducing the current unemployment rate in Uganda?

Sports boosts tourism because it offers free advertising airtime around the globe, modern sports facilities contribute to the tourism potential of a country too. How many tourists visit Kenya and South Africa after getting to know about those countries in sports circles? How many Ugandans go abroad and pay to tour F1 circuits, football stadiums? The benefits of sports to individuals and government are endless.

Role of National Council of Sports

Sports federation heads in Uganda need to have a dialogue about the effect of taxes on sports in Uganda yet it’s an underdeveloped sector. National Council of Sports (NCS) should submit proposals on tax exemptions, they are in a better position to present to the Ministry of Education and Sports how tax exemptions would work to develop sports as well as the opportunities and developed sports sector would bring to Uganda.

A tax exemption on sports would make sports equipment very affordable for the ordinary Ugandan, setting up sports facilities would be cheaper, training and using sports facilities would be affordable, sports personalities earning more money would be injected into the Uganda economy, it would be cheaper for fans to attend sports events. Do I need to go on?

Ben Mwesigwa is a football coach. You can follow him on Twitter @mwesben

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