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Court Quashes City Outdoor Advertising Fees Policy

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“But the case at hand is about charging the applicants members with fees without any legislation. The KCCA has been illegally collecting taxes based on City Outdoor Advertising Policy. This is erroneous and illegal. Taxes, levies or charges are imposed by law duly enacted and policy of KCCA,” said Ssekaana.
KCCA has been ordered to refund all the monies collected from the Out Door Advertising companies by way of illegal tax since 2011
High court has nullified the advertising rates and fees imposed by Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA on outdoor advertisers, saying they are illegal and unlawful. The judgment stems from an application filed by the National Outdoor Advertising Contractor’s Association Limited protesting the levies introduced by KCCA. In 2008, government introduced Out Door Advertising Policy, which provided different rates that were to be paid by advertisement firms. 

The companies started paying the annual fees to the Works and Transport Ministry and Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA. In 2011, KCCA teamed up with the advertisement firms to streamline outdoor advertisement, which was conceived as a partner in facilitating trade, commerce and generally as a channel of information to the general public.

However, in 2018, KCCA revised the Outdoor advertising rates. KCCA hiked the registration fees for Outdoor advertising firms from Shillings 2 million to Shillings 5 million, application fees increased from Shillings 10, 000 to Shillings 50,000, Bus Adverts from Shillings 1.5 million to 2.5 million, LCD/LED Boards from Shillings 1.3 Million to 5 million per sign among others.

KCCA went ahead to publish the new Advertising rates in the Uganda Gazette of January 11th, 2019 under general notice number 38 of 2019. However, this didn’t go down well with outdoor advertisers. They petitioned court under their umbrella the National Outdoor Advertising Contractor’s Association Limited, saying the fees were illegal. 

Through their lawyers of Alaka and Company Advocates, advertisers argued that that the fees were illegal since they were already paying the same fees to UNRA as provided for under UNRA Regulations of 2016. They asked court to quash the notice of the revised rates published by KCCA and order the Authority to refund all the monies collected from them.  

On Thursday, Justice Musa Ssekaana delivered his judgment on the petition nullifying the revised rates and fees. He said the City Outdoor Advertising Policy was enacted outside the confining procedures guaranteed under the constitution and that it also didn’t provide a clear framework under, which the companies and their members are being charged or taxed.

“But the case at hand is about charging the applicants members with fees without any legislation. The KCCA has been illegally collecting taxes based on City Outdoor Advertising Policy. This is erroneous and illegal. Taxes, levies or charges are imposed by law duly enacted and policy of KCCA,” said Ssekaana. He argued that if KCCA was seeking to recover the tax or levies, they ought to have authority of the law.

“Revenue is law and one cannot collect the same in an entity of government without any statute unless it is a bribe or a tip,” he said. Ssekaana concurred with arguments of the applicants and ordered KCCA to refund all the monies collected from the companies by way of illegal tax since 2011 at a 15 percent interest rate per year effective 2019 when the matter was filed, adding that the same shall be determined by court upon clear proof of documentary evidence.