When you listen to younger Kenyans just starting out in the job market talk about the tax regime, you get the impression they are not so enthusiastic about paying taxes.
While they talk about needing government services, and get mad when the services are not provided, they would be happy if they found a way out of the taxation system.
Their anger is also evident when the government tries to widen the tax base by introducing newer taxes to keep up with the increasing revenue streams and income generation activities of the modern era.
As a matter of fact, they almost admire those people who evade taxes; they envy their lifestyles, and rightfully so, and at times feel that the government is doing the wrong thing by going after them.
Ironically, they still get angry when politicians run around the country spreading lies and half-truths while millions of Kenyans lack basic services.
They acknowledge that the politicians are wasting taxpayers’ money–but they admire their lifestyles.
Such is the confusion taxes cause in Kenya. People know that taxes help and that the government needs the money in order to provide services, but at the same time they would be happy if they were exempted from paying taxes.
That is the feeling in the light of Keroche Breweries and KRA tax saga, which has been on and off for several years. The revenue authority insists that Keroche needs to pay taxes and has been falling back, and then Keroche agrees to do so, but within a few weeks, they are back to square one.
This saga has divided opinion with some feeling that closing the brewery over non-payment of taxes will cause unemployment. Others feel that Keroche, like other Kenyans, should just pay taxes.
All these feelings about paying taxes or not are fueled by the government’s inability to effectively fight corruption or end it all together. Unless that is done, Kenyans will continue looking for ways to avoid paying taxes.