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Finance Bill 2024 will make life harder; tell lawmakers exactly that



 When President William Ruto signed the Finance Bill 2023 to law at the State House. [PCS]

Finance Bill 2024 has caused outrage as Kenyans, who are already struggling to put food on the table, are uncomfortable with the proposed tax measures. 

Indeed, Kenyans have endured multiple shocks in recent years including spells of drought that have now been followed by devastating floods. Additionally, many people are still grappling with the impact that the Finance Act 2023, which slashed their incomes and increased the cost of living by, among others, raising the cost of essentials such as petroleum products.  

As it is, many households are barely keeping their heads above water. 

Increasing the cost of bread, perhaps the only breakfast alternative that is still within reach will make many Kenyans to skip the essential meal.

The Bill further introduces taxes on essential services. This includes higher excise duty on mobile money and VAT on banking services, which could slow down efforts that the country has made in increasing financial inclusion. 

Kenyans will also have to pay a new motor vehicle tax of 2.5 per cent of the value of the vehicle. This is expected to hit all motorists hard but will especially increase the tax burden for players in the transport industry, both matatu operators and transporters of goods, which could further be passed on to the users of their services. The transport industry is still adjusting to the advance tax that was implemented last year. 

Fortunately, the Finance Bill 2024 is set to undergo a public participation process, a constitutional requirement, in the coming weeks. Aside from the usual arguments in social spaces including bars, markets and social media about the Bill and its demerits, it is time Kenyans came out in large numbers and told Parliamentarians the impact that the proposals are likely to have on them. 

Some legislators such as Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah have challenged Kenyans to read the Bill and make known their views during the public participation process. It is a call we would like to reiterate. We also pray that their views will not be eventually ignored as happened last year.

The government should also take a cue from what happened last year. By introducing new tax measures through the Finance Act 2023, Treasury had expected to increase tax collection but the reality is that this did not yield as much as was expected and, if anything, it is expected to fall short of the target over the financial year to June 2024. The government in budget estimates for the next financial year has reduced what it plans to spend due to the shortfall in revenue collection. 

With an economy that is not creating enough opportunities for Kenyans including jobs for young people while many in formal employment are grappling with slashed income and higher cost of living, perhaps it is time that the National Treasury listened to what Kenyans are saying and eased up on new tax demands. But Kenyans must raise their voices to be heard.

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