From the 1st of July the Tanzanian government began charging 18% VAT on most tourist services, including: park fees, ground transportation, guiding fees, water safaris, birding, hot air balloon landing fees, normal camping fees, special camping fees that mobile and temporary tented camps have to pay. It also includes wildlife viewing packages offered by camps and lodges. Unlike accommodation, for which VAT already applied, these tourist services were previously exempt from VAT.
As a result of this change, tours that use accommodation are 5% to 10% more expensive and most camping and Kilimanjaro tours are 18% more expensive.
This change with short notice has caused chaos in the safari industry, forcing tour operators to charge clients up to 18% extra for safaris that had already been paid.
SafariBookings.com, the largest online marketplace for African safaris, is being bombarded by emails from concerned clients that have received requests from their tour operators to pay an additional amount – these range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars extra because of VAT now being applied to their Tanzanian safari.
The main issue isn't that the government decided to charge VAT. The main issue is that it only gave tour operators a couple of weeks to adapt to these changes. The VAT change was introduced in the 2016 finance bill on June 3rd, passed parliament on June 23rd and was made effective from July 1st. As most safaris are paid for months in advance, this short notice didn't give tour operators the opportunity to add VAT on top of their usual rates.
The short notice has shocked hundreds of tour operators, thousands of clients have been hit with unexpected charges and park authorities haven’t had enough time to implement these changes and provide proper VAT receipts. It wouldn't have been an issue of this magnitude if the government decided to start charging VAT in 6 to 12 months, giving the industry sufficient time to adapt and increase their rates accordingly.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority has started to charge 18% VAT on camping and park fees, but hasn't issued VAT receipts so far. The Tanzania National Parks Authority does issue VAT receipts, but they are missing the VAT registration numbers, which allow operators to reclaim the VAT. Many tour operators have also expressed concern about whether their government will actually pay when they attempt to reclaim VAT owed to them.