‘I can’t pay’: taxing times for small traders in Ethiopia hit by 300% rate hike

A vegetable seller at Dessie market in northern Ethiopia. About 80% of the country’s workforce is employed in smallholder agriculture.
Photograph: Ivoha/Alamy

By  in Addis Ababa

Originally Published in The Guardian

In the dense cobblestone streets of Burayu town, outside Addis Ababa, Melaku Abdella* and his family had been making a living selling basic items such as vegetables, cooking oil and soft drinks at competitive prices from their kiosk. But after the Ethiopian government stung him with a more than 300% tax increase last month, Abdella says he was left with no option but to close the business.

Like many low-income traders in the country’s Oromia region, the family didn’t keep accounts, meaning the authorities based their annual tax demand of 7,000 Ethiopian birr (£231) on an estimate of income. “It’s beyond my capacity to pay. I will have to hand in my business licence,” Abdella says.

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