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Zimbabwe imposes mobile money tax

Zimbabwe imposes mobile money tax.

Zimbabwe has started levying a tax on mobile money transactions after intense lobbying from the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) for the Zimbabwean central bank to regulate mobile money services “to create a level playing field” in the financial services sector.

The banks had been involved in a bitter dispute with Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest telecoms firm, over its alleged refusal to open up its EcoCash mobile money platform for integration with the banking system in Zimbabwe.

The government has subsequently moved in to regulate mobile money transactions, effectively imposing a 5 cents tax levy on transactions carried out using mobile money platforms.

Econet’s EcoCash, with 3 million subscribers, is the biggest mobile money platform in Zimbabwe.

"We advise that a transaction tax of 5 cents will be levied on applicable transactions... in line with government tax policy," Econet Wireless said in a statement sent to EcoCash users last week.

Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said in his 2014 budget presentation on December 19 that "the emergence of mobile technology has opened doors to innovative technology which facilitates transfer of funds through mobile phones".

He however argued for the regulation of mobile money platforms and services, saying transactions done through such platforms had to conform to the same tax regime applicable for Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and Point of Sale (POS) transactions.

"Notwithstanding the positive impact of mobile banking services on the welfare of the then financially excluded members of our society, this product should, however, conform to the tax principle of fairness, hence, the current tax on similar products such as ATM and PoS should apply," Chinamasa said.

Experts in Zimbabwe said the government was hoping to capitalise on the prominence of mobile money transactions by imposing the 5 cents per transaction tax rate.

Mobile money platforms in Zimbabwe are used for cash transfers, airtime top-ups, utility bill payments and other transactions. It was not immediately clear however, whether airtime top-up transactions will attract the 5 cents levy.

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