VAT on school fees was not properly thought out

Dear Editor,

On the matter of VAT on education there are two issues here. One is VAT being paid by the business that provides private education and  two, is VAT being paid by the students who access the service of private education. There exist two clear distinctions, ie, the provider of the service (business) and the receiver (students) of the service, and these ought not to be conflated or confused in analyses or policy-making.

Education is a fundamental human right. You cannot charge VAT on services such as education and health which the people access because it is not only inhumane, it is unconscionable and flies in the face of every government’s responsibility to ensure citizens have access to such services for their own and the nation’s well-being and development.

Having taken note of the government’s evolving position, including that of the Minister of Education and Prime Minister, what the society needs to hear from these officials, is where they got the idea of taxing school fees from and which countries are doing likewise.  There is no denying the government has to find revenue to run the affairs of state but it has to be sourced from the proper areas, and based on a system that is conscionable and designed to achieve results that would be to the benefit of the people.

Placing VAT on school fees is punitive and deprives citizens from accessing a service which its country, in its Constitution, has not only guaranteed as a fundamental right but also allows the option of choice (private or public). A profit business that provides education will attract taxes consistent with the law under which it is required. The not for profit providers and government can look at ways of ensuring shared social responsibility, such as sponsorship of a public good.

Frankly, I don’t think the issue of VAT on school fees, like some others areas, was properly thought out and in that the society has come out against it the government feels cornered. This notwithstanding, given that it is human to err, the government has to be mindful that digging in on a policy (taxing school fees) that lacks the humanity that ought to underpin its responsibility and the benefit to the receiver will hurt it more.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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