A telecommunications industry body has called on the South African Revenue Service to stop taxing cellphones as “luxury items”.
The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (Waspa) said on Monday that smartphones attract ad valorem duty, plus 14% VAT, when imported into the country.
“South Africa’s stalling economy needs decisive action to develop the positive relationship between economic growth and cellular usage. The GSM Association found that every doubling of mobile data use adds a solid 0,5 percentage points to GDP,” the association said.
Waspa represents the interests of about 300 providers of mobile content and applications that can be accessed on smartphones and feature phones.
It said that a luxury item is “not something that has become the first permanent address for millions, enabling them to be included in the wider economy for the first time as job seekers, grant recipients and more”.
“Recent news reports indicate the local economy is in for a sustained downward slide. One example of what’s holding South Africa back from being where it should be is the long defunct view that a mobile phone is a luxury,” it said in a statement.
It said there are three primary reasons that mobile usage, and especially access to the Internet on mobile devices, are good for the economy.
Firstly, it said, mobile technology enables greater efficiencies. More can be achieved using the same time and resources.
Mobile also sparks layers of creativity that sees greater human ingenuity with each successive technological advance.
Finally, mobile encourages consumption which, in a retail-led economy such as South Africa’s, keeps cash registers full and employment positions filled.
“A mobile handset is a tool that allows ordinary people to interact with prospective employers while searching for job opportunities in the most efficient way,” the association yet. “A mobile handset, and a smartphone in particular, is more valuable to the one quarter of unemployed citizens than any employment agency.” — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media