Treasury has been busy looking for avenues to increase taxation as it seeks to raise tax for a incoming large government structure that stopped short of promising every Kenyan citizen a lucratively paid seat in government.
Kenya will have 290 Members of Parliament up from 222, 47 powerful governors, a tentative number of 60 senators and 1450 county ward representatives.
In addition, Kenya is trying to achieve Vision 2030 which includes a second transport corridor between Lamu and the Sudan border and Lamu and the Ethiopian border. Kenya’s productively is currently around the Mombasa – Kampala transport corridor due to that being where the country’s infrastructure is.
All in all, treasury needs money, and has made bold moves to seek more revenue, including slapping tax on the mobile money transfer. A 10 percent excise duty will affect mobile money users. M-pesa handles more than KSh. 60 billion per month in deposits and a similar amount in withdrawals, and KSh. 80 billion in transfers.
There’s also the VAT bill 2012 which will see essential commodities which were previously not susceptible to tax coming into the tax bracket. The aim of the move is to make tax laws easier to understand and also close loophole which have been resulting in tax evasion.
Fuel will remain exempt for three years after which standard taxation will apply, meaning higher fuel bills. The cost of production will go up, since production relies on oil and its products for energy generation and also as a component especially in packaging.
Electricity might also be taxed at 16 percent up from 12 percent as the new bill only has 2 levels of taxation, 0 percent and 16 percent.
Medicines, vaccines and related supplies are also to face the same as fuel. With access to medical care already beyond many Kenyans, even more will find themselves having to choose between facing death and taxes.
Those who can’t smell the taxes now will now have a chance to smell them as the government moves in to tax flower. Valentines day will now be a romantic affair for treasury. Charcoal and aircraft will also bring smiles to the taxman.
Having breakfast might see you choking on taxes, and so will the quest of educating the young ones. Failure to breastfeed your babies will also see the taxman charging for services rendered. Essentials that are no longer tax free include processed milk, maize and maize flour, bread, infant formula milk, sanitary pads, newspapers, chalk, exercise books and water drilling services.
Just in case you would like to write the taxman a letter in protest, he also plans to tax you for postage.
Luckily, in case taxation kills you, burial and cremation services remain tax exempt.
The problem with taxation in countries like Kenya and other countries where most people are employed in informal sector, or where official unemployment rates are high, is that those in formal employment with a monthly salary basically run the country.
While VAT is a tax that applies to everyone (but one easily evaded in Kenya), payroll tax only applies to those the government counts as employed. A sizeable number of people earning income in one way or another do not pay personal tax, but only pay VAT.
It gets even worse seeing that Kenya’s payroll tax rate ranges from 10 percent to 30 percent depending on your annual income . Your employer also has to give to Caesar 30 percent of profits if they are proudly Kenyan, or 37.5 if they aren’t.
If you between Ksh. 121,000 and KSh. 466,000 per year, your contribute between KSh. 12,000 and Ksh. 81,000 to the taxman as income tax. Afterwards, you contribute 16 percent on almost anything your purchase.
Maybe, though, the taxman is giving us a breather, seeing that in the European Union, Luxembourg is the only nation with a VAT rate below 16%, with most countries at 20%, 21% and 23%. Sweden and Denmark are at 25% and Hungary is at 27%.
Iran has a VAT rate of 4%, Japan 5% , China 17% , Norway 25% and Iceland 25.5%.
When it comes to corporate, Mauritius taxes at 15 percent, which explains why a number of corporates operating in African countries are registered in Mauritius.
Corporate taxes for Luxembourg are at 29.6 percent, China 25% . Corporate and payroll taxes for Sweden are at 26.3% and 31.42%, Denmark at 25% and 8%, Japan 40.69% and 25.63%, Iceland 20% and 6% and Hungary at 10% and 19% for corporate and 36.5 percent for payroll.
Iran has corporate tax at 25% and 15% to 35% payroll tax, Norway 28% and 0% to 14.1% payroll.
Clearly, unlike other countries, the Kenyan taxman bites quite a chunk. However, treasury does know that increasing taxes isn’t much of an option. Neither is introduction of new taxes like the mobile money one also an option.
Instead, treasury should focus on increasing compliance, which is quite low in the country. I have been to a supermarket less than a kilometres away from KRA which doesn’t offer electronic tax register slips, but manually written receipts. @coldtusker reports a number of restaurants in the country also do not offer ETRs, thus evading tax. The taxman should have an army of audit officers looking at non-compliance, and have the court levy such businesses punitively.
Then there is efficiency in government. The government, as it is, runs quite inefficiently. Automation and digitisation of government agencies will see lots of savings. According to Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication , digitisation of the lands registry had seen revenue collected rise from KSh.. 800 million to KSh. 9 billion. Digitisation of various government agencies around the country should bring in more than Ksh. 200 billion in additional revenue. Fully digitised hospitals are expected to bring savings of 40 percent in the healthcare sector.
Lastly, the government should make it easier to pay any duties to it, and also be more of a business enabler, rather than a stumbling block.
Ideally, the government should also lower or scrap payroll tax, since it can’t bring all under income or payroll tax, and probably increase the all-inclusive VAT. This should make us all equal before the tax man. After all, those who earn more buy more.
Efficiency in tax and revenue collection should therefore be the way forward, rather than more taxation.
I got my data from:
East Africa Budget Analysis by Deloitte East Africa
Kenya government should opt for efficiency rather than more taxes by PwC
Kenya Information PS advises govt to focus on efficiency through digitisation rather than taxation