Azimio to mobilise Kenyans to reject 'punitive' Finance Bill

Azimio la Umoja principals led by Raila Odinga during a press conference at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation in Nairobi on tax increment on May 16, 2023. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has vowed to mobilise Kenyans to reject the Finance Bill, 2023 if Kenya Kwanza MPs pass it into law.

Raila called on Kenyans to raise their voices against the Bill which he described as a punishment that citizens should not tolerate.

“We make it clear that if this Bill is railroaded through Parliament, we will have no option but to mobilise citizens around the country to fight for themselves. We will mobilise all the social sectors and take all the necessary political actions to stop this blow and burden,” he said.

The Azimio leader appealed to Kenyans to participate actively in the process of validation and express themselves loudly and lobby their elected leaders to reject the Bill.     

Despite holding a minority position in Parliament, Azimio has remained resolute in opposing the Bill and mobilized its MPs to reject it.

The opposition raised concern over the Bill which proposes amendments to tax statutes, including the Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax, Tax Procedures Act, and the Miscellaneous Fees & Levies Act.

Azimio has warned that introduction of 16 per cent VAT on petroleum products would drive up the cost of living.

The opposition argues that the Bill fails to qualify as a just tax system and will only exacerbate the country's economic disparities.

“The rise in the price of fuel and the continuing fall of the shilling means the cost of everything goes up, again,” Raila said.

Azimio has opposed contentious proposals of tax rates for foreign entities' permanent establishments and repatriated income, a requirement to deposit security before appealing against tax judgments, real-time remittance of agency taxes and withholding tax on digital content monetization.

Others are revised turnover tax bands and rates, the introduction of digital asset tax, the increased marginal tax rate for employees, and the introduction of employee and employer contributions to the National Housing Development Fund.

“This proposal does not spur economic growth or generate wealth so that every family in this country can have opportunities. Instead, it traces and kills those opportunities," Raila said.

Azimio believes that public participation around the Bill is just a charade and is “offering false hope to Kenyans before burdening them with a tsunami of taxes starting July.”

The opposition has outlined demands to rectify the shortcomings of the Bill. Firstly, they call for a major surgery to the Finance Bill, 2023 to alleviate the suffering of Kenyans.

Raila said the mere imposition of additional taxes is not sufficient; instead, the Kenya Kwanza regime must address the underlying structural issues plaguing the economy.

Azimio wants the government to address the reasons behind the Kenya Revenue Authority's inability to meet revenue targets.

“We continue to demand a major surgery to the Finance Bill in the interest of the suffering people of Kenya. Instead of merely levying more taxes on Kenyans, Kenya Kwanza must address the economy’s many structural shortcomings,” he said.

Raila also raised concern over the weakening shillinng and its impact on cash flow.

“The decline of the Kenyan shilling against not only the US dollar but also the Tanzanian shilling indicates the presence of domestic factors contributing to the currency's instability,” said Raila.