No government should levy ‘Robbing’ Hood tax to finance programmes

Once upon a time, as the legends goes, there lived a man now known as Robin Hood. Robin Hood dwelled in the Sherwood forest. This was the forest where kings and their noblemen went to hunt deer. Robin Hood, it is said, was one day standing on the roadside when a young man dressed in a fine suit of bright red cloth passed by. Robin Hood chose not to rob him as the young man appeared happy and on his way to a wedding. 

The next day the same young man passed by Robin Hood at the same location. This time the young man appeared unhappy. Robin Hood stopped him and demanded for money from him. The young man offered Robin Hood five shillings and a gold ring.

The young man explained to Robin Hoodthat he had kept the gold ring for seven years to give to his bride on their wedding day.

However, his wedding day had collapsed, as his bride had been promised to a rich old man by her father. She was to be married to the rich old man on the following day. The young man had no further use for the gold ring. 

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Threatening to use force

Touched by the tale, Robin Hood offered to rescue the young man’s bride for a price. The only price the young man could offer was to be the servant of Robin Hood for the rest of his life.

On the next day, Robin Hood marched with his gang to the church the young man’s bride was to be married to the rich old man. Threatening to use force if opposed, Robin Hood took the bride from the rich old man and had her married to the young man on the same day in the same church.

Robin Hood was a robber. He was a rebel. He was the leader of a gang of other robbers. He was an outlaw. He robbed the rich. He also robbed from his own government. He was an illegal tax collector; all the proceeds of his gang’s activities were brought to him to share amongst his gang members.

Robin Hood was a killer; together with his gang, he killed many representatives of the King before taking their belongings.

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Robin Hood was an interlocutor. He was a slave owner. For a price, like the life bondage he imposed on the young man, he interfered in the private affairs of men.

“Robin Hood” is the name given by the government to one of the taxes introduced in the 2018 Finance Bill. Robin Hood tax is a 0.05 per cent charge to be paid to government on every transaction over Sh500,000 made through banks and other financial institutions. This tax measure is unapologetically a revenue raising measure. 

The decision by government to levy it and, at the same time to give it the legend of “Robin Hood,” is as perplexing as it is disturbing.

While introducing it, and its purpose, the Cabinet Secretary of Finance said in his 2018 budget speech as follows, “Mr Speaker, our economy has a well-established financial sector with significant sums of money transferred monthly.

In order for the Government to get a fair share of revenue from these financial activities and to finance critical Governmentprograms, I propose to introduce a Robin Hood Tax of 0.05 per cent on any amounts of Sh500,000 or more transferred through banks and other financial institutions. In addition, I have increased excise duty fees charged on money transfer services by cellular phone service providers from 10 per cent to 12 per cent.

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No government should so brazenly propose to “Rob” part of its population to finance its programs.

No government should so openly offer to be a “Robin Hood” against any of its citizens. No government should levy a “Robbing” Hood tax.

- The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]

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