The Government has made various efforts to increase opportunities for the youth, women and persons with disabilities in Kenya.
Initiatives have been in terms of funding, priority for government tenders and tax rebates, among others.
One of the objectives of the 2015/16 budget, which was in line with Vision 2030, was to create opportunities for the youth, women and persons with disabilities to apply their talents and capabilities to contribute to the growth of the economy.
In order to achieve this, it was directed that 30 per cent of all Government tenders should be awarded to the above groups.
However, in order for the above category of persons to be able to tender, they would need finances.
Government had already considered this aspect and introduced various devolved funds to offer financing and also training to equip the entrepreneurs to run their businesses effectively and efficiently.
The funds include the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Women Enterprise Development Fund, Constituency Development Fund and the Uwezo Fund, among others.
On the tax front, an incentive was introduced for employers who engage at least 10 university graduates as interns for a period of six to twelve months during a year of income.
The employers would be eligible for a tax rebate the following year. The Treasury Cabinet secretary was to issue guidelines on how employers would claim the rebate but the guidelines are yet to be issued.
The guidelines are very important for employers as they will be able to gauge if it makes economic sense to have at least 10 interns in their organisation in a year or not.
The Cabinet Secretary, in drafting the guidelines, should ensure there is a worthwhile incentive to the employer that will encourage them to take up interns.
The incentive is well intentioned as it would give fresh graduates opportunities to gain experience, which is necessary for growth in their careers.
However, it can be construed that the incentive is discriminative as it only applies to university graduates while there are youth who graduate from technical training institutes who also need internship opportunities.
It would be important for this provision to be amended to also include interns from technical training institutes. There are tax exemptions that are applicable to persons with disabilities.
However, for an individual with a disability to qualify for the exemption, they need to be registered with the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and in addition they must apply to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
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Upon receiving an application, KRA will consult and receive a recommendation from the NCPD on whether the person should qualify for exemption or not.
If KRA is of the view that the person qualifies for exemption, it issues an applicant with an exemption certificate which is valid for a period of three years.
You may wonder why a validity period of 3 years since it is unlikely that an individual’s status will change.
Well, I think with the advancement in science and medicine, it may be possible to correct certain disabilities in future and if you are a believer like myself that God still heals, a change in status is possible.
The Kenya Revenue Authority must have taken all these into consideration to ensure the reason for the initial exemption still remains.
Once an individual is successful in obtaining an exemption certificate, Sh150,000 per month of their total income is not taxable.
In addition, they are allowed to deduct non-refundable expenses that they have incurred on home or personal care that are as a result of the disability.
The deduction is capped at Sh50,000 per month.
In my view, this is a good incentive for persons with disability who are in business or in employment.
It would however be good for the exempt and allowable amounts to be reviewed over time to take into consideration inflation.
What the youth, women and persons with disability needed to see in this year’s budget are incentives that would reduce the costs they incur in running their businesses thus enabling them price their products competitively.
This would lead to increased survival rate of start-ups in Kenya and have a positive impact on the economy.