Value-added tax (VAT)
VAT is levied on the supply of taxable goods and services in Rwanda as well as on the importation of taxable goods and services into Rwanda.
The threshold for VAT registration is taxable turnover of RWF 20 million in any relevant year or RWF 5 million in a calendar quarter.
The standard VAT rate is 18% and applies to goods and services that are neither exempt from VAT nor zero-rated.
Exports of goods and services are subject to VAT at 0%. Supplies to privileged persons, such as goods imported for official purposes of diplomatic missions, supplies made under special arrangements between the government of Rwanda and donors, and supplies or importation made under special technical aid agreements, are subject to VAT at 0%. Persons entitled to zero rating of goods or supplies received by them are required to pay VAT at the time of receiving the supply and then apply for a refund of the VAT paid.
Some supplies are exempt from VAT, the main categories being supply of water service, goods and services for health purposes, educational materials and services, transport services, books and newspapers, financial and insurance services, lending or leasing interests in land or building for residential purposes, funeral services, energy supplies, all unprocessed agricultural and livestock products, mobile handsets, and equipment for information, communication, and technology.
Suppliers who provide zero-rated services or goods are entitled to recover input VAT incurred in making the supply. This is unlike exempt supplies, where input VAT recovery is not allowed. Therefore, zero rating is preferable to exemption.
The VAT returns and relevant payment are due to the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) on a monthly basis by the 15th day of the following month. However, taxpayers with annual turnover of RWF 200 million or below may elect to file VAT returns or make payments on a quarterly or monthly basis.
Rwanda is a member of the East African Community, which uses the East African Community Customs Act (EACMA) for levying import duty. The EACMA prescribes Common External Tariffs (CET) for goods originating outside the Customs Union. Goods are generally subject to import duty of 0% for raw materials and capital goods, 10% for intermediate goods, and 25% for finished goods.
Goods will only enjoy the preferential community tariffs if they meet the East African Community (EAC) Customs Union Rules of Origin.
Certain industries and items are also entitled to exemptions under the customs law (e.g. assemblers of bicycles and motor cycle kits, importers of gas cylinders, certain hotel equipment, solar equipment, and energy saving bulbs).
Enterprises established in Free Trade Zones are exempt from customs duty on machinery and inputs for exported products. There also exists an import duty remission scheme, where import duty may be remitted for raw materials used to manufacture goods for export. This is subject to a requirement for proof of export and execution of the bond.
All imported goods, except those listed as exempt, are also subject to the 1.5% Industrial Development Levy (IDL) and the 0.2% African Union Levy. Additionally, imported goods, regardless of whether they are exempted, are subject to a 0.2% Quality Inspection Fee (QIF). The levies are computed on the customs value of imported goods.
Excise tax is imposed on the manufacturer or importation of certain commodities, mainly soft drinks, bottled water, cigarettes, alcohol, fuels, and lubricants.
The following rates apply in respect of products and services for which excise duty is applied:
- Juice from fruits: 5%.
- Soda and lemonade: 39%.
- Mineral water: 10%.
- Beer: 60%.
- Wine, brandies, liquors, and whisky: 70%.
- Cigarettes: 36% of retail price of a pack (of 20 rods) and RWF 30 per pack.
- Telephone communication: 10%.
- Premium (excluding benzene) fuel and gas oil: RWF 183/litre on premium fuel and RWF 150/litre on gas oil.
- Lubricants: 37%.
- Powdered milk: 10%.
- Vehicles with an engine capacity of above 2500cc: 15%.
- Vehicles with an engine capacity of between 1500cc and 2500cc: 10%.
- Vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 1500cc: 5%.
Property taxes/fixed asset tax
Local government levies fixed asset tax on:
- the market value of parcels of land
- the market value of buildings and all improvements thereto registered with the land registration centre and for which the owner has obtained a title deed from the time the building is inhabited or used for other activities
- the value of land exploited for quarry purposes, and
- the market value of usufruct with a title deed.
The tax rate is fixed at a thousandth (1/1000) of the taxable value per year. The tax payment must be paid not later than 31 March of the year.
There is a fixed fee of RWF 20,000 on transfer of property. However, no transfer of ownership of a fixed asset can be effected without a tax clearance certificate issued by the concerned decentralised entity.
There are no stamp duties in Rwanda.
Employers are required to withhold tax on payments to employees in respect of employment services that they have rendered. The tax is withheld through the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system. The tax deducted should be remitted to the RRA by the 15th day of the following month.
Social security contributions
All people working in Rwanda, both nationals and foreigners, are required to contribute to a national social security contribution fund managed by the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB). The employer is required to contribute 5% of the employee’s gross salary to the scheme, while the employee’s contribution is 3%.
Gross salary means total remuneration received by the employee, including allowances, bonuses, commissions, and all other cash benefits, as well as any fringe benefits, but excludes reimbursement of business expenses and transport allowances.
The social security contributions computed are required to be remitted to the RRA by the 15th day of the following month.
Maternity leave benefits scheme
The law governing maternity leave benefits requires all employers and employees to contribute towards a maternity fund, which is administered by the RSSB.
The law grants employed women full monthly salary for the entire 12 weeks duration of maternity leave. The main requirements affecting employers are summarised below:
- The employer is responsible for collecting and remitting the contributions to the RSSB.
- The total contribution for maternity leave benefits is 0.6% of the contribution base. The employer and the employee are each required to contribute 0.3%.
- The contribution base is the gross pay to the employee, including benefits in kind, but excluding termination benefits, retirement benefits, dismissal compensation, and any other allowances that have a compensatory character.
- The employer is required to declare and remit the collected contribution to the RSSB by 15th day of the month following the month to which the contribution relates.
Trading licence fee
Districts charge a trading licence fee, which is paid by any person who commences a profit-oriented activity in Rwanda. The tax year starts on 1 January, and the trading licence fee must be paid for a whole year. If such activity starts after January, the taxpayer must pay a trading licence fee equivalent to the remaining months, including the one in which the activities started.
The tax declaration is made not later than 31 March of the tax year. The trading licence fee is calculated on the basis of turnover, and the amount of the fee varies between RWF 60,000 (for turnover of less than RWF 40 million) and RWF 250,000 (for turnover of over RWF 150 million).
The turnover applied is as per the amount approved in the previous year by the RRA. Every year, not later than 31 January, the RRA submits the necessary data to the concerned decentralised entity.
There are also different trading licence fee rates for other small traders (not registered for VAT). These include vendors without shops, small-scale technicians who do not use machines, sewing machine operators, transporters of people and goods on motorcycles, non-VAT registered traders and technicians who use machines, all other vehicles besides bicycles, transport activities by motor boat, and other profit-oriented activities.