Civil society warns government against overtaxing Kenyans

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u. [File, Standard]

Imposing more taxes on already overburdened taxpayers is punitive, the civil society has warned.

Okoa Uchumi, an umbrella of civil society organisations, further cautioned that heavy taxation might occasion closure of many businesses.

This, they said, would lead to further loss of revenue by the government.

To cushion Kenyans against more taxes, the civil society urged government to seal corruption loopholes.

OKoa Uchumi is against doubling of Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products from 8 per cent to 16 per cent.

It said the rise would increase the cost of production hence pile more pressure on Kenyans who had high hopes in the Kenya Kwanza regime

Should the government proceed with the proposed additional taxes, Ukoa Uchumi comprising 40 organisations has threatened to stage protests. Speaking in Nairobi yesterday, International Budget Partnership Kenya country manager Abraham Ruyo said the lifting of VAT exemptions could increase the cost of doing business. 

“The Finance Bill 2023 risks bleeding Kenyans dry through taxation. The proposed taxation measures are injurious to the Kenyan population. We urge Parliament to reject the proposal to overtax the employed population and informal sectors,” said Dr Ruyo.

He said removal of VAT exemption on the supply of maize (corn) flour, cassava flour, wheat or muslin flour has led to a sharp rise in the cost of flour.

It is important that the government considers citizens’ and business owners’ economic situations and recognise that overtaxing could lead to increased tax avoidance and evasion and, consequently, less tax collection,” he said.

Leonard Wanyama from Tax Justice Network Africa said Kenyans are aggrieved because they do not see value for their money.

“The government is collecting tax but they are not prioritising the expenditure. Some of the policies can undermine the initiative,” said Wanyama.

Diana Gichengo, national coordinator, Institute for Social Accountability, said they would not sit and watch as the government stresses citizens unnecessarily through taxation. 

“When things take a wrong trajectory, we have to take a stand and raise our voice that we are suffering and nobody is listening to our cry, we will do anything to liberate the common person.”