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Customs Duty in Uganda - A Guide for Importers and Exporters

26 Dec 2023
15 min read

If you are planning to import or export goods to or from Uganda, you need to be aware of the customs duty regulations that apply. Customs duty is a tax levied on goods that cross international borders, and it can affect the cost and profitability of your business transactions.

In this blog article, we will explain what customs duty is, how it is calculated, and what exemptions and reliefs are available for different types of goods and traders.

We will also provide some tips on how to comply with the customs rules and avoid penalties and delays.

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Customs Duty

This is a tax levied on goods imported (import duty) or exported (export duty) from Uganda at specific or ad valorem rates. The East African Community Customs Management Act 2004 (EACCMA) is the legal framework for customs operations in Uganda and the region as a whole.

A customs union exists between the East African Community States of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi for the main purpose of promoting international trade between the partner states.

The union operates as a single customs territory and trading bloc with a view to harness economic growth through a wider market for goods and services. In order to achieve this, the partner states have agreed to –

1) Eliminate internal tariffs and non-tariff barriers that could hinder trade between the partner states and thus facilitate formation of a single market and investment area. In this regard, movement of goods produced within the constituent customs territories is duty and quota free.

2) Harmonize policies relating to trade between the partner states and other countries. A common set of import duty rates are applied to goods from non-partner states under a Common External Tariff framework.

The main features of a Customs Union include the following:

  • A common set of import duty rates applied on goods from non-partner states under the Common External Tariff, (CET).

  • Duty-free and quota-free movement of tradable goods among its constituent customs territories.

  • Common safety measures for regulating the importation of goods from third parties such as phyto-sanitary requirements and food standards.

  • A common set of customs rules and procedures including documentation.

  • A common coding and description of tradable goods (Common Tariff Nomenclature (CTN)).

  • A common valuation method for tradable goods for tax (duty) purposes (common valuation system).

  • A structure for collective administration of the Customs Union.

  • A common trade policy that guides the trading relationships with third countries/trading blocs outside the Customs Union i.e. guidelines for entering into preferential trading arrangements such as Free Trade Area’s (FTA), with third parties.

Documents for importation of goods

The following import documents may be required for purposes of making a declaration to customs:

  1. A Bill of lading or airway bill.

  2. An Insurance certificate.

  3. Pro-forma invoices.

  4. Commercial invoices.

  5. A Certificate of Origin.

  6. Permits for restricted goods.

  7. Purchase order.

  8. Parking list

  9. Sales contract

  10. Any other supporting documents.

Valuation of imported Goods

Goods imported into the country from without the EAC must be valued for taxation purposes i.e. a customs value must be determined. The customs value forms the basis for computation of customs duties which include import duty, Value Added Tax, Withholding tax, Excise duty and other duties e.g. environmental levy. Applicable tax rates are defined in the Customs External Tariff.

Goods are valued using the following methods adopted by GATT (General Agreement on Tariff and Trade) and applied chronologically –

  1. Transaction value.

  2. Transaction value of identical goods.

  3. Transaction value of similar goods.

  4. Deductive value.

  5. Computed value.

  6. Fall back value.

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Exemptions from Customs duties

Passengers’ Baggage and Personal Effects

In order to qualify for exemption, the following conditions should be met –

  •  The goods must be the property of the passenger;

  •  The goods must be in the company of the passenger;

  •  The goods should be for the personal or household use of the passenger;

  •  The goods must be of such kinds as permitted by law;

  •  The goods must be of such quantities as a customs officer may allow in accordance with specified restrictions;

Duty Free Allowance for Passengers of majority age

The items listed below may be imported as duty free items –

  •  Spirits (including liquors) or wine, not exceeding one litre or wine not exceeding two litres.

  •  Perfume and toilet water not exceeding in all one half litres, of which not more than a quarter may be perfume.

  •  Cigarettes, cigars, cheroots, cigarillos, tobacco and snuff not exceeding in all 250 grams in weight.

  •  Other goods up to a value of US$ 300 imported by a traveler in his/her accompanied baggage or upon his person provided the person has been outside Uganda for a period exceeding 24 hours.

Exemptions for specified categories of people and entities under the 5th Schedule EACCMA

Goods imported by or on behalf of –

  •  The President.

  •  Donor agencies with bilateral or multilateral agreements with the partner states.

  •  International and regional organisations with diplomatic accreditation.

  •  Disabled, blind and physically handicapped persons.

  •  Rally drivers (one motor vehicle and parts).

Other general exemptions include –

  •  Deceased person’s effects.

  •  Passenger’s baggage and personal effects of passengers.

  •  Mosquito nets and materials for the manufacture of mosquito nets.

  •  Inputs for use in the manufacture of medicaments.

  •  Educational articles and materials as specified in the Florence Agreement.

Items imported by bona fide persons changing residence/returning residents

  •  Wearing apparel.

  •  Personal and household effects of any kind which were in his personal or household use in his former place of residence.

  •  One motor vehicle, (excluding buses and mini-buses of seating capacity of more than 13 passengers and load carrying vehicles of load carrying capacity exceeding two tonnes),

  • which the passenger has personally owned and used outside a partner state for at least 12 months (excluding the period of the voyage in the case of shipment).

Temporary Visit

The following goods imported as baggage by a person on a temporary visit not exceeding three months to a partner state may be exempted –

  •  Non-consumable goods imported for personal use and which will be exported at the expiry of the visit.

  •  Consumable goods and non-alcoholic beverages in such quantities and of such kinds which are, in the opinion of the customs officer, consistent with the visit.

  •  That the goods are imported by a returning resident being an employee of an international organization the headquarters of which are in a partner state and who has been recalled for consultations at the organization’s headquarters.

Rates of duty

Generally, the following rates will apply to an import of goods from outside the community:

Import Duty - 25%

VAT - 18%

WHT - 6%

Excise Duty - varies

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About the Writer


CPA Innocent Mugisha is a Professor of Finance and Accounting with over 10 years experience in teaching Accounting and Finance related courses including Financial Accounting both at University and Professional level. His qualifications are: PhD (candidate), MBA(Finance), CPA(U), FCCA, CIPS, CTA and BCOM (Accounting). Innocent has also published various books on most topics in Accounting and Finance for Business and Professional Studies.

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