Fresh tax crackdown dampens Christmas cheer for travellers

By Brian Ngugi | Dec 23, 2023

Travellers coming home for Christmas festivities from abroad could be in for a shock after the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) renewed its aggressive enforcement of customs tax compliance at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

In a public notice on Tuesday, KRA reminded incoming travellers that they must declare at the ports of entry, all inherited items abroad, purchases from duty-free shops, repairs/alterations to items taken abroad and brought back and gifts. They must also declare business-related items or merchandise and currency of $10,000 (Sh1.5 million) and above or equivalent.

Regular travellers who were interviewed by The Standard on Wednesday reported that KRA’s fresh aggressive enforcement on those carrying gifts and purchases from duty-free shops had disrupted their shopping plans for family and friends. “The KRA personnel asked me intrusive questions on the gifts I brought from my family whom I have not seen in a year, and I felt very indignified,” said one traveller.

“We are Kenyans and deserve to be treated better.” The Standard could not immediately reach KRA for comment. The taxman had previously warned that travellers and luxury shoppers who fail to declare and pay duties on expensive goods that exceed the duty-free limit would have to surrender their items, face significant penalties or even be arrested upon arrival.

The move was seen as a further tightening of the noose on luxury shoppers by KRA as it faces mounting pressure to generate additional tax revenues. But it triggered a nationwide outcry, including pleas by President William Ruto for the taxman to refrain from causing distress to travellers. Speaking during the KRA National Taxpayer’s Day in Mombasa last month, President Ruto said the days of an oppressive agency using excessive and oppressive abuse of statutory authority to intimidate taxpayers in the pursuit of revenue collection “are now a thing of the past.”

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