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Deputy President William Ruto (in grey jacket) and elders during the bride price negotiation ceremony of his younger brother David Ruto in Ziwa, Uasin Gishu County in August 2019. KRA will not tax ceremonies. [File, Standard]

A blog post published on December 3, 2019 has claimed that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is contemplating a tax on dowry payments. This has set off a buzz of reactions on the interwebs. Standard Digital decided to fact check the claim.

How it started

A story authored by James Kanyotu of updates.co.ke, claimed that the KRA told him it was consulting over the issue.

 "…the sooner they agree the earlier they'd make it formal," read the blog which claimed the move is aimed at raising KRA's revenue collection.

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The article further claimed that KRA will periodically publish names of Kenyans paying dowry. Apparently those who have already paid before will not be spared either.

"It was realised that millions of money and property escape tax through the payment of dowry. Individuals paid to the tune of five million alongside unquantifiable properties whereas none of it got taxed)," (sic) the blog reported. 

This is the same website that also published an article claiming Japan-based Kenyan international footballer Michael Olunga had been offered money to change his citizenship to Japanese. We fact-checked and found it was false. 

KRA denies the claim

As the article went viral, we called KRA to check if it was true or not. 

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"This information circulating on social media is fake news and did not originate from us," an officer in the KRA marketing and communication office told Standard Digital.

A screenshot of the fake article claiming KRA lost an estimated Sh15 billion annually from not tax dowry payments.
Expressly, dowry is rarely paid in Kenya.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, dowry is defined as 'the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage'. It is more oriental in the Indian subcontinent.

Kenyans pay pride price which is the 'payment given by or on behalf of a prospective husband to the bride's family in many cultures'.

This means women pay dowry; men pay the bride price.

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There are no set standards for dowry or bride price payment and often the price is fixed by tradition. Common practice includes payment using cattle, goats, sheep, chicken or such items like honey, shukas, swords etc.

What makes the difference is the price the community attributes to each of the items. It would be very difficult for KRA to put a tax figure on such payments.

Enforcement would also be a tricky affair since the negotiations are often done in informal systems and are not treated as a commercial payment per se but a token of appreciation between the families.

The conversation is, however, not new to Kenya. Recently on November 28 during the 2nd Kenya School of Revenue Administration (KESRA) Research Conference at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, the proposal was discussed.

University of Nairobi Associate Professor in the School of Business Dr X.N Iraki told delegates that there need to research whether dowry payment should be subjected to taxation.

X.N Iraki who is a certified bride price negotiator in a past interview with Standard Digital called for academicians to focus on dowry negotiations as an area of study.  

"I once presented a paper on Dowry Pricing in East Africa in the USA. Sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and even accountants are welcome. There is some beauty in our traditions. Unfortunately, our youngsters are watching too many movies," he said.

Conclusion: Fake news. KRA is not planning to tax dowry. 

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