Despite Controversy, Cell Phone Tax to Be Enacted April 1

By San Yamin Aung 25 March 2016

RANGOON — A five percent tax on cell phone users, previously postponed after being met with intense backlash from the public, is set to go into effect on April 1.

“Starting April 1, all mobile phone usage amounts will include a commercial tax of 5 percent as per Union tax law,” Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), one of Burma’s three telecommunications providers, told its customers via text message on Friday.

In May 2015, outgoing President Thein Sein’s administration announced the plan to levy a tax on MPT, Ooredoo and Telenor subscribers starting June 1. But public criticism convinced the government to delay the tax until after the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

In December, Win Shein, incumbent Minister of Finance, reintroduced the bill to Parliament, contending that, annually, Burma could generate a tax revenue of some 84 billion kyats (approximately US$69.5 million). Parliament approved the bill that same month.

Thidar Myint, from the Ministry of Finance’s Internal Revenue Department, told The Irrawaddy that the tax will be levied for phone calls, text message, and internet usage; from April 1 on, cell phone users’ credit balance will reflect this new tax.

“Users will not be charged when they top up. Instead, the tax will only be applied to their total usage amount, and each month operators will give the tax to the Internal Revenue Department, according to their data on [cell phone] users,” Thidar Myint explained.

The enactment of this tax on April 1 will coincide with the transfer of power from Burma’s military-backed government to a civilian-led National League for Democracy administration on the same day.