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KRA in fresh tax crackdown on Kenyans abroad, luxury buyers

International Arrivals terminal at the JKIA, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The taxman has stepped up its bid to tax Kenyans returning from abroad amid mounting scrutiny on the conduct of its personnel enhancing compliance.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is now conducting awareness campaigns targeting diaspora Kenyans on their tax obligations when they return.

The sensitisation campaigns are running across social media platforms including Zoom targeting the diaspora Kenyans. 

KRA wants Kenyans returning from abroad to pay up for all their obligations and not feign ignorance when faced with the law.

KRA reckons the new campaign will help step up compliance amid the mounting scrutiny on the tactics it uses to enhance compliance.

“The State Department for Diaspora Affairs in partnership with the KRA is organising a webinar on tax and customs,” said one such campaign message.

“Do you know the documents that are required when coming back to Kenya? Are you aware of items that are exempt from customs duties for returning residents? How about the passenger clearance passes? For this and more insights on returning residents, join us tomorrow afternoon from 2:30pm on Zoom as per the details below,” added a different message. 

Expensive goods

The taxman had earlier 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 to authorities, face significant penalties or even be arrested upon arrival.

The move that coincided with the introduction of passenger declaration forms was seen as a further tightening of the noose on luxury shoppers by KRA as it faces mounting pressure to generate additional tax revenue.

But tourism lobbies and the Chairperson Departmental Committee on Defence Intelligence and Foreign Relations Nelson Koech had condemned the new KRA guidelines.

“The KRA’s passenger terminal guidelines could not have come at a worse time. This is not the time to be threatening those coming to Kenya,” said Mr Koech.

“We agree, the laws around the world impose limitations on the amount of good but that should not be an excuse to threaten passengers, harass travellers or infringe on the privacy of tourists.”

KRA had said it plans to strengthen its enforcement efforts at ports of entry such as the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) - targeting both Kenyan citizens and foreign visitors to ensure compliance with customs regulations.

Regular travellers who spoke to The Standard earlier reported encountering heightened scrutiny from customs officials regarding the contents of their luggage upon their return from overseas, after the implementation of the crackdown.

KRA had earlier warned that individuals discovered walking through the gates with dutiable or prohibited goods, or who are found to be mis-declaring the quantity, description or value of dutiable goods, will be subject to severe penalties, including arrest and prosecution.

Travellers often bring in high-end luxuries such as premium liquors, perfumes, bags, and cosmetics without paying taxes.

Customs duty is paid at the port of entry for goods subject to taxation, and imported goods may be subject to import duty, value-added tax and excise duty if the allowable limits are exceeded.

Travellers are permitted to bring spirits not exceeding one litre, wine not exceeding two litres, perfume not exceeding half a litre, and cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, and snuff not exceeding 250 grammes in weight.

KRA customs officers are allowed by law to inspect the luggage of passengers and perform body searches if deemed necessary.

Nevertheless, diplomats and other privileged individuals are exempted from such inspections and searches.

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