Why can’t Finance make Covid masks tax free?

The Minister for Finance should come forward and explain why his ministry cannot exempt VAT and certain other taxes on the sale of face masks, especially now that the country is going towards mandatory wearing of these masks in public places.

Health Care Agency CEO Danny Louange told journalists last week during a press conference that even the Department of Health pays taxes when they import those masks.

“For some technicalities, they do not seem prepared to give tax exemptions for these masks” Louange stated! He added that he is unaware of the nitty-gritty details. He explained that the health services currently has around 340 000 masks of three different types in stock. These masks range from the specialized types used in places like isolation, to the ones used in surgeries and general use masks. Given the high volume of work the health services uses large amount of masks daily.

“Therefore even if we continue to get donations, we still have to order more masks to ensure we always have the adequate stock we need. We are proposing to look at the local production and see how we can work with local investors to get a regular supply of masks from the local market, rather than having to import them!”When one considers the plight of the health services, one cannot but wonder about why the very same government under which umbrella the health authorities operate cannot give VAT exemption on something, which very soon everyone will be forced to use every day!

Currently the disposable masks are selling for anything between five to twenty five rupees a piece. The more sophisticated ones can set a buyer back by up to eighty rupees. These types can be re-used as most are washable. However, the cloth masks come with their own set of risks, in that quite often a mask will be worn and removed then worn again at different intervals during the day and the appropriate methods of storing them when not in use and for wearing and removing them might not be observed, which could reduce their efficiency and even make them a risk.

Mandatory wearing of masks will incur an additional expense on the already beleaguered budget of the layman and if one has to use the imported disposable ones, then this extra spending can amount to quite a hefty sum for an average family of four or five people! Already the public and traders alike are complaining about the effect of the tax on masks and many have approached the media, asking journalists to lobby for removal of at least VAT on the sale of masks to make them more affordable and thus facilitate observance of the mandatory wearing of these face masks when the regulations come into force!