Zambians divided over Netflix tax
A proposal by Zambia's government to impose tax on video streaming service Netflix has sparked a row in the country.
The government says it is concerned that while mainstream international broadcast companies pay taxes, online companies like Netflix broadcast their content for free.
Last year the information ministry announced a new tariff on calls made on social media apps, but it was not implemented.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Chanda Kasolo told the BBC that the state was looking at ways to tax Netflix:
Quote Message: We want to level the playing field and protect local content. We want to look at ways where companies like Netflix should also start paying broadcasting levy which we call television levy because other television companies are already doing that.”
We want to level the playing field and protect local content. We want to look at ways where companies like Netflix should also start paying broadcasting levy which we call television levy because other television companies are already doing that.”
But the country’s main opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema - who leads the United Party for National Development - took to Twitter to disagree with government.
Our people already pay tax through the data bundles they buy. There is no need to tax NETFLIX. Give our people a break. #Zambia
Mr Hichilema’s stance drew a sharp reaction from the Minister of Information, Dora Siliya, who tweeted in response:
“Careless way of looking at business. You want an American company, Netflix, using our ICT infrastructure paid for by tax kwachas, to enjoy free profits with no local jobs, nor contribution to health education etc. Why do you think USA/China have trade war? Try no taxes in USA.”
Another tweeter questioned the government's proposal, @Animo_Hoes said:
“You people are ruthless. This is a slippery slope. So what's next Facebook tax? Whatsapp? How about Google? Don't they also use our ICT infrastructure paid for by tax kwachas, don't they also enjoy free profits with no local jobs, nor contribution to health or education..”
@Mich_Choolwe also joined the Twitter conversation and said:
“You haven’t even finished with your failed project to tax Whatsapp calls you are already thinking of Taxing Netflix. And who tells you Netflix uses your infrastructure? Gosh♂️. You might as well tax this same Twitter you are using.”
Though most Zambians are used to watching pay television and free-to-air TV, online platforms such as Netflix are slowly gaining popularity especially among people with access to good internet connection.