New tax imposed on skin whitening products in Cameroon

The Cameroon cosmetics market has been widely invaded with skin whitening products as its users increase on a daily basis. You can find many of these products on billboards by MNCs as well as local cosmetics companies. Added to these are small businesses and individuals who offer customized solutions to their numerous clients. 

According to the World Health Organization, skin bleaching has become a great public health issue and needs to be controlled. Unlike the East African Legislative Assembly, EALA that passed a resolution which recommends the ban on all cosmetics that contain hydroquinone, a skin whitening agent, the government of Cameroon has decided to do it in another way. 

The 2020 Finance Law of Cameroon has placed a tax on all bleaching products and products that contain the the skin whitening agent, hydroquinone and related products. Another similar excise duty was passed on hair, wigs and related products. 

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Let’s get to see some of the products and services that will be imposed ad valorem  excise duty come January 1, 2020.

50% excise duty on skin whitening products

An ad valorem excise duty at the rate of 50% has been added on hydroquinone and all products that contain hydroquinone. Previously, Section 142 of the General Tax Code of Cameroon placed the following rates for Excise Duty:

  • General Rate – – – – – – – – – 25%
  • Average Rate – – – – – – – – -12.5%
  • Reduced Rate – – – – – – – – -5%
  • Extra Abated Rate – – – – – -2%

The recent Finance Law has added two other rates to the above rates:

  • Super High Rate – – – – – – – 50%
  • High Rate – – – – – – – – – – – – 30%

For all other goods and services that are listed in Annex II of Part I of the General Tax Code, the general rate shall be applied except for those that are subject to the super high, high, abated and extra-abated rates.

False hair & wigs

It didn’t just end with the skin whitening products as hair, wigs, beards, wool, locks, eyebrows and eyelashes have also been taxed. The Average Rate of 12.5% shall be applied to the above products and related materials used in the manufacture of wigs or hair. It should be noted that these false hair and wigs are common with girls in particular who go for skin whitening and both are usually sold in hair-dressing salons.

Other products affected

Apart from the above, many other products have been affected by the 2020 Finance Law that was signed into law on December 24, 2019 and will fully be implemented as from January 1, 2020. They include:

Average Rate of 12.5%

  • Motorcycles with more than 250cm3 cylinder capacity with their parts
  • Packages of programmes (software) and digital audio-visual content
  • Hair, wigs, beards, wools, eyebrows, eyelashes, locks and every other textile material used in the manufacture of wigs or similar hair

Reduced Rate of 5%

  • Cocoa-free sweets
  • Chocolate and related products with high cocoa content
  • Motorcycles with a cylinder capacity of less than or equal to 250cm3
  • Ice cream under the customs tariff heading 2105
  • Preparations for consumption under the custom tariff headings 2103 to 2104

Super High Rate of 50%

  • Cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, pipes and its parts as well as tobacco and pipe preparations
  • Hydroquinone and related cosmetic products that contain hydroquinone

It should be noted that several sub-Saharan countries have recently placed a ban on skin bleaching cosmetics. This include Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda and Sudan. However, the bans have not reduced the growth in the usage of these products in these countries. A World Health Organization report shows that about 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening products on a regular basis with Senegal, South Africa, Mali and Togo having 27%, 35%, 25% and 59% respectively.

How this new legislation will curb the use of skin whitening products is something we just need to wait and see given that there’s an exponential growth in the global market for bleaching cosmetics. It should also be known that these products are brands from MNCs (multinational companies) like Unilever and L’Oreal. Let’s wait and see!

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Image Source: Ama K Abebrese

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