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Experts say Kenyans are overtaxed

By Dominic Omondi
Updated Mon, January 11th 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3
Ezekiel Ole Tumbes stands at the counter of a shop in Elangata, Kajiado. He can't afford to pay using money and gives a sack of charcoal in return for the goods he has asked for [GARDY CHACHA/STANDARD]

In their quest for independence from the British in the 18th century, Americans threatened to stop paying taxes, arguing that there would be no taxation without representation.

Well, this might not be exactly how the Kenyan taxpayer feels today since Kenyans broke free of the chains of colonialism more than 50 years ago, but they certainly feel highly taxed and less represented.

As 2016 begins and he settles at his desk, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich will have limited options when it comes to plugging the ever-widening budget deficit. Borrowing either locally or from the international market is fast turning into a red-line. But can he increase tax measures in 2016?

A tax partner at audit firm Deloitte Fred Omondi is of the opinion that although the Government needs to fund its expansive budget, raiding the taxpayer’s purse should not be on the cards.

“They need to fund the budget but taxpayers are looking at how efficient they can be,” he says, noting that despite giving a lot in terms of taxes, the taxpayer does not see the fruits of compliance.

“The economy is under-performing but taxes are increasing,” stated Omondi, noting that in the three years that the Jubilee government has been in power, Kenyans have been slapped with more new tax measures than any other time. Omondi reckons that with this level of taxation, Kenyans need to see double-digit growth.

The new tax measures that have since been introduced to plug the burgeoning budget deficit include the removal of zero-rating and exceptions on VAT for some commodities. The new VAT law, which came into force in September 2013, saw the Government go after previously exempted or zero-rated supplies such as sale of commercial buildings, the management of unit trusts, credit rating bureau services, tour operator and travel agency services, cut flowers, cinematographic films and wood charcoal. These  now attract the standard VAT rate of 16 per cent.

Other formerly zero-rated supplies that now attract a 16 per cent VAT are; the first 200KWH of supply of domestic electricity, services in respect of goods in transit, books and similar printed material, mosquito nets, motorcycles, medical equipment and animal feed.

Also, zero-rating for such supplies as milk specially prepared for infants, medicines, certain fertilisers, sanitary towels, maize, wheat flour and bread has been removed. These supplies, which were previously zero-rated, will be subject to reduced rates, or the taxman will go after only a portion of items.

There is also the new excise duty that has seen the Government go after basic commodities such as fruit juices, soda, bottled drinking water, motorcycles and imported second-hand cars. This is in addition to the traditional ‘sin products’ such as tobacco and alcoholic beverages.

Landlords and property owners have also not been spared. A new residential rental income tax, which is expected to kick in this year, will see landlords owning residential properties and whose annual rental income is below Sh10 million annually, part with 12 per cent of gross rental income.

And with everyone angling for the big day when they can win a jackpot, the Government has smelt good money from the gamers and has since re-introduced a simplified gaming tax. This shall be a direct charge on the gross gaming revenue. Public lotteries shall be taxed at 5 per cent of the lottery turnover and bookmakers shall be taxed at 7.5 per cent.

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