Residents and property owners in Fort Portal City, western Uganda, have raised concerns about what they consider to be high property taxes. They say the current economic conditions have made it difficult for them to afford these taxes.
The property owners are worried that there is no consistent fee structure for property taxes. They are calling for a reevaluation of the tax rates to make sure they are fair and affordable, especially during these challenging economic times. They have asked the city authorities to make the rates more consistent so that everyone pays a fair amount.
Mr. Jackson Kasiime, a landlord in Kasusu cell in Fort Portal City, expressed his concerns about his recent property tax assessment. He mentioned that he used to pay Shs 170,000, but this time, he was asked to pay Shs 700,000 for the same property. He questioned how his property’s value was determined and whether the government is treating property owners fairly.
This issue was discussed during a meeting between property owners and Fort Portal City authorities at Nyaika Hotel, organized by RippleNami, a non-governmental organization. The meeting was part of the Service and Fair Tax for Property Owners project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Property owners with disabilities (PWDs) have also joined the call for tax relief. They have asked the city leadership to exempt them from property taxes due to their financial vulnerability.
Mr. Kamurasi Badru Muhammed, a PWD living in the city, argued that property taxes place an unfair burden on their vulnerable group, as they lack sufficient financial support. He suggested that exempting PWDs from such taxes would motivate others in their category to invest more in real estate and encourage property owners to construct buildings that are accessible to PWDs.
The city mayor, Mr. Edison Asaba Ruyonga, explained that Fort Portal currently charges a five percent property tax, which is lower than what other cities impose, where property owners might pay up to 10 percent of their property’s value.
According to him, property tax is essential for funding city services like garbage collection and town beautification. However, he admitted that some property owners evade taxes, and sometimes, properties are not assessed accurately due to collusion between tax collectors and property owners.
To address these issues, the city has introduced a digital system that allows property owners to make tax payments through banks. This move is expected to reduce opportunities for collusion and increase transparency in the tax collection process.