Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah has taken the fight against the controversial Finance Bill to the High Court.
Omtatah alongside four activists have singled out 13 provisions in the Finance Bill 2023 which they claim are unconstitutional and will impose a huge burden on Kenyans who are struggling with a high cost of living.
“Parts of the proposed Finance Bill 2023 as drawn by the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning pose threats to the nation and we are asking the court to quash them before the public are forced to face the consequences,” said Omtatah.
The petitioners want the court to suspend debate on the controversial sections of the Bill and an order stopping President William Ruto from assenting to the Bill should it be passed by the National Assembly.
Among the sections they are contesting is the proposal to deduct 3 per cent of employees’ salaries to support the government’s affordable housing scheme which they claim is unconstitutional and illegal.
According to the Senator, forcing people to contribute to a housing scheme they do not want is a violation of Article 36 of the Constitution since it is disguised as a means of property ownership when it is an avenue the government wants to use to reduce people’s earnings.
“The introduction of this levy means that the gross salaries of employees will be subjected to further deductions which will impact their net take-home income.
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“It will interfere with the net salaries of constitutional officeholders which makes it unconstitutional,” said Omtatah.
They are also contesting Section 52 of the Bill which gives Kenya Revenue Authority powers to register security against a tax defaulter’s property without notification on account that such a law will violate the right to property and undermine the principles of natural justice and due process.
According to the petitioners, Section 56 is also unconstitutional since it will deprive taxpayers who have overpaid their taxes, a right to their property by empowering KRA to hold onto and use overpaid taxes to offset a taxpayer’s future tax liabilities instead of refunding the excess tax.
“The Bill threatens the right to access justice and to fair hearing by proposing a requirement for litigants to deposit 20 per cent of the tax disputed, or equivalent security, before appealing a decision of the Tax Appeals Tribunal at the High Court,” said Omtatah.
The activists argued that requiring a deposit to challenge KRA’s miscalculation of tax will impede access to justice in legitimate tax disputes.