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Citizens are unwilling to pay taxes because leaders have let them down

CLAY MUGANDA
By Clay Muganda | November 7th 2021

There is this running joke that in Kenya jokes write themselves. This is because some of the things that are said or happen sound surreal, until you discover that you can’t make the stuff up.

Take the curious case of two businessmen who’ve been sued for allegedly faking someone’s death and grabbing his property. They have insisted that they bought the property a year before the man died, and the person who has sued them, and who appears in court, in their presence too, is his ghost.

They have told the court that with a face that is probably straighter than the one the country’s chief executive had when he said that two billion shillings is stolen daily from public coffers.

Taxpayers could not believe what the president said, but he did not flinch. His face was straight the way it was when his deputy was waxing lyrical about the number of sports stadia they were building, and which would be ready before Kenyans could say Kamariny!

When it comes to hoodwinking Kenyans while maintaining straight faces, no one beats the president and his deputy. These two men have jointly and severally sold the country’s soul to the lowest bidder, and ensured that Kenyans’ taxes keep going down the drain of individual bank accounts instead of being channeled towards service delivery.

In any civilised society, where voters have not lost hope, or are not hapless and know that their civic duty goes beyond the voting booth, they would follow their taxes and know how every coin was used and on what.

But Kenya is not that civilised society. And that is why the chief executive can, again, without an iota of shame, say that Kenyans want services but are not willing to pay taxes. Really?

That is an insult because poor Kenyans who need government services the most, are taxed at every step with deductions made at the source before they receive their wages and can’t avoid or evade paying taxes.

To the contrary, those who avoid or evade paying taxes are the wealthy who many a time are protected by politicians or even the chief executive and his deputy—two people who have perfected the dubious art of borrowing money, seeing two billion shillings of it getting lost daily, then borrowing some more in the name of repaying the loan and seeing it embezzled again by their cronies, on their behalf.

It is not easy to defend these two people, and those who have the spine to do so are cold-hearted dunderheads who want to see Kenyans continue to suffer.

To jog your memory—because it is probably affected by the suffering you have endured under these two men—on October 29, the President of the Republic of Kenya presided over the 2021 National Taxpayers’ Day.

It was at the event where he said, with a straight face, that Kenyans are demanding better services yet some of them are unwilling to register and pay taxes.

He likened the number of registered voters to taxpayers, and the figures show that the former are many. This happens ideally because you do not need to have an income to register as a voter, thus, it is only logical to conclude that the unemployment rate is stratospheric, yet they promised to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

That aside, his statement was also erroneous because taxes are levied on almost all goods and services, thus every Kenyan who can purchase any goods or services pays taxes.

Thus, to accuse Kenyans of demanding services and not be willing to pay taxes is not just wrong but disingenuous of someone who has admitted that billions of shillings are stolen daily from this ship called Kenya of which he is the captain.

But truth be told—many ordinary Kenyans would evade taxes if given a chance, or they would look—and they do—for ways through which to evade taxes.

This is simply because ours is a society of dishonest people, and those in power do little to nothing to show Kenyans an honest way, for, they never disclose where the millions of shillings that they spend on the campaign trail come from, or how they recover the money.

It is common knowledge that the recovery is done through embezzlement of public funds; the monies that are borrowed from foreign countries do not all go to infrastructure projects and services Kenyans are being accused of demanding but not willing to pay for.

Tranches of the monies are either taken directly, or the costs of equipment in public institutions and material being used in the projects are grossly inflated, and the suppliers are none other than the politicians or their cronies.

Thus, if Kenyans are not willing to register and pay taxes, they should not be blamed. It is because they are tired of losing billions of shillings to faceless people. It is because they are not enjoying the benefits of the other taxes that are levied on goods and services that they purchase.

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