Below are the essential tax privileges applicable to diplomatic and consular missions and similar organisations based in Cameroon. The privileges apply both to Diplomatic Missions and International Organisations (I) and to certain categories of their personnel (II).
I. Tax immunities and privileges applied to missions and similar organisations
A- Concerning VAT
Exemption from and refund of VAT
Pursuant to the provisions of Section 128 (14) of the General Tax Code (GTC), all goods and services destined for the official use of foreign diplomatic or consular missions and international organizations are exempted from value-added tax (VAT) subject to reciprocity, headquarters agreement and quotas laid down by the competent authorities.
The scope of this exemption includes furniture purchased for the equipment of official premises as defined in the 1961 and 1963 Vienna Conventions on diplomatic relations and privileges. These are, specifically, household furniture, functional objects and services attached to this furniture, office furniture as well as services provided for the functioning of the mission (maintenance, repairs).
Thus, when acquiring the above-mentioned goods and services, the diplomatic missions and related organizations can request from the Director General of Taxation the issuance of a certificate of exemption from VAT based on pro forma invoices established by suppliers. The said certificate will enable them to settle the different invoices exclusive of taxes.
However, when time constraints do not permit the issuance of an exemption certificate, the persons concerned can pay the tax and be refunded on the basis of the provision of Section 149 of the GTC. To this effect, a special form, duly issued and signed by the competent services of the Ministry of External Relations (MINREX), is addressed to the Director General of Taxation. The request is accompanied by the invoices in question, highlighting for each one, the amount of the tax paid.
Expenditures for the repair and maintenance of administrative, official or service vehicles, purchases of fuel and lubricants, are not admissible to the above exemptions.
In the same line, expenditures for food and beverages, restaurants, hotels and entertainments, as well as services provided for water, gas, electricity and telephone are not exempted from VAT.
B- Concerning the special tax on petroleum products
Only fuel consumptions destined for the official use of diplomatic and consular missions are admissible for exemptions. Therefore only official vehicles used by Heads of missions and other senior personnel who have diplomatic status are concerned by this provision.
The appropriate forms should be filled indicating the car registration number, the mileage and the volume requested, based on the quotas determined by the competent authority. They should then be checked by the Head of the diplomatic mission, the Ministry of External Relations and the Directorate General of Taxation.
C- Conerning registration fees
As far as registration fees are concerned, the diplomatic and consular missions are exempted from the said duties when acquiring or leasing landed property or houses for their official use subject to reciprocity and pursuant to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic privileges and immunities and Section 338 (24) of the General Tax Code.
This concerns only the premises housing the offices of Missions and International Organizations, the official residences of Heads of missions and related officials, as well as those of senior staff members who have diplomatic status.
II. Tax immunities and privileges applied to staff members
These benefits essentially concern income from wages. In this connection and pursuant to the provisions of the 1963 and 1969 Vienna Conventions mentioned above, staff members of diplomatic missions and related organizations, who have diplomatic status under the said Conventions, are admissible to exemption from personal income tax when it concerns their salaries and related allowances.
It should be specified that only Heads of missions, Heads of consular posts, Heads of international organizations and related bodies, as well as senior staff members occupying high functions within these structures have diplomatic status.
It is understood that the above persons should be expatriates or persons who do not have their usual residence in Cameroon. Junior staff members, locally recruited personnel, especially Cameroonians, irrespective of their rank, are therefore excluded from the scope of this exemption, unless otherwise specified by International Tax Conventions. These persons should pay the Personal Income Tax according to the common law tax system applicable in Cameroon.
As far as exemption from VAT is concerned, it applies only to expatriate personnel, on the occasion of their first installation in Cameroon. Those who are entitled therefore have the right to import duty-free, their household equipment, including one vehicle per family.