Where Does The New KRA Rip-Off Tax at JKIA Leave Kenyans in Diaspora?

18 mins read

The Ruto craze on taxing Kenyans for everything indicates they will soon start taxing Kenyans for using the washroom or toilet each time they go there. I wonder what will happen to those who use the bushes to do that business.It will be a maliza twende tax.

In just the last week the government has announced new fees and taxes every day. You are dead tomorrow, there is a Death Certificate fee of Sh. 1,500. When a child is born there is a new fee for Birth Certificate. We have new fees for passports including renewing them announced this week. ID card fees were also announced.

In fact, the government even announced a new Sh. 1.2 million as Permanent Residence fees for Kenyans whose parents are Kenyan citizens but who were born outside the country which they later said was announced by error. At the desperate level Ruto is harassing Kenyans for money, the whole government is an error Kenyans are living with now. Ruto is cooking up ways to collect money from Kenyans every single minute.

By far, the Ruto tax on personal items people bring with them to the airport is the most primitive form of taxation even by Ruto’s standards.

First of all, who does this tax apply to? Is it for the tourists only? That is not possible because when people come to the airport they don’t have a badge saying they are tourists. Does the tax apply to Kenyans travelling in and out of the country?

So if a Kenyan runs a business or has personal things to do outside the country and leaves the country with the personal things that they need, will they pay taxes for those things when they come back? How about if you are making three or four trips a year and you have the same items? Do you pay taxes for the same stuff every time you come back?

Will Ruto and his political friends who spend billions of Kenya tax money travelling around the world and buying billions worth of expensive items to bring to Kenya also pay taxes for those items bought with taxpayer money? Will Ruto and friends be paying any taxes for the super expensive things they buy in Dubai?

In my specific case, I would want to know if this tax applies to the Kenya Diaspora of Kenyans who live and work outside the country. We come to our country very often because even though we work out here we live in Kenya. We have houses there. We have families.

In fact, most of anything we have is back in Kenya. Am I going to be taxed every time I come home and I bring my cell phone with me or my laptop which are things I need to live there and often to help me continue doing my job while I am at home in Kenya? How many times am I going to pay taxes on the same laptop and cell phone if I come home a couple of times a year?

How about taxes on other basic things we need to fix our homes and make life better? For example, I am building a house right now in my home. My sister has done a great job of helping me put up a beautiful place. When I go home which is soon I may want to buy some household items for the house. I could buy bedsheets and all other things to make my house livable. Am I going to pay tax on that at JKIA? Remember when I buy those things I pay my taxes at the place I buy them.

Why should I pay another tax on the same thing just for bringing them to my house? It would be the same as going to a superstore in Kenya, buying stuff and paying taxes on them and when I take them to my house someone is waiting at the door asking me to pay taxes again for bringing my property to my house. How does that make sense?

Outrage as Kenya tax officials accused of harassing tourists at airport

So far everything about this impromptu tax announcement is confusing which is typical of Ruto way of mismanaging the country. The media reports are all over the map because the tax itself was announced on social media without the Kenya government coming out with a clear statement which should have been officially communicated to all Kenyans telling them to whom the tax applies to and how much the tax is and the items to be taxed.

Instead of that, Kenyans just have to rely on media reports and state officials scrambling all over the place particularly when some tourists were crying about personal clothes and wedding gowns being grabbed by the KRA officials at JKIA.

By the way, do the tax conditions allow KRA to grab people’s property at the airport and withhold them for tax because, if that is the case ,some people in the Ruto government may prefer to work at the airport in the KRA department even without pay.

The amount of underwears, wedding gowns, cell phones, laptops, clothes, watches and all that material they will grab per day will be worth millions every day and they can set up a shopping centre at the airport or have a warehouse downtown and become major suppliers for expensive products from outside the country. This thing is looking very lucrative for KRA staff.

For tourism which is one of the big earners for our economy this stupid tax idea is insane and will have a huge negative impact on people coming to Kenya for tourism.

If Ruto creates a situation where tourists cannot bring their own electronic items they use daily nor can they bring clothes and other things without having to pay taxes on such items then they will pay the tax the first time because they are already at the airport, but forget about them coming back. No tourist would want to go shopping to come to Kenya while also calculating how much tax each item will cost in Nairobi. Why not just go to Grenada or Barbados and have fun without this tax burden being heaped on you?

Why not just let the tourist come into the country and enjoy themselves in their holiday time? Those tourists will spend all that money in Kenya. Why does the Ruto government want to grab part of their money?

The CS for Tourism Alfred Mutua was right about this tax scam.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua termed the KRA move as one of the reasons the number of tourists visiting the country has been declining.

“You go to Rwanda, they don’t harass you. Does Rwanda not collect taxes? You go to South Africa, and they don’t harass you. In Dubai, they don’t harass you. So, why do our visitors face such challenges in Kenya? And we wonder why people are not coming to Kenya,” Mr Mutua asked.

In case we don’t remember Kenya tourism contributed Sh. 268 billion to the Kenyan economy in 2022 which was the second largest source of forex for the economy. Why in hell would anybody want to mess with that just to collect some ready cash from the tourists for the government thieves? In every economy, you must know your pots of gold and you don’t mess around with that. In Kenya, tourism is one of those.

In the same breath, the Kenya Diaspora contributed Sh. 483 billion to the Kenyan economy in 2022 making them the largest source of forex for the country. Now we are being told by Ruto and the KRA that even if I come with my used shoes and ten-year-old laptop, I will have to pay taxes for that and it is up to KRA to put up some value on my items when they have no idea how much I paid for them? Aren’t the Kenyans Diaspora already doing tremendous work to support their economy at home?

Why does their government want to punish them? DP Gachagua was in Belgium just weeks ago telling Kenyans living and working outside the country that the Ruto government is looking for ways to lower the amount of tax they pay on their remittances which greatly supports the Kenyan economy.

Is this KRA tax when people come home the tax relief the Ruto government had for them? Does the Ruto government want us to come home in sandals (or akala) with a T-shirt and then rush to Gikomba to buy bedsheets?

The other thing Kenyans need to know about this tax is that the travellers’ and tourists’ bags are scanned, opened and ransacked without you because your bags goes to the cargo section and before it is handed over to you the KRA wants to go through your stuff at the Cargo Section.

Even the very thought of Kenya state officials going through anybody’s bag when you are not there is bloody scary. Any jewellery or other valuable items in there will be gone and nobody writes a list of what is in their bags when they are travelling and that means KRA can take anything they want from your bag and you won’t even know.

Here is what Hivi Punde published about Diaspora Kenyans and our economy:

So we need serious clarification on this tax on personal items that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. Every time I come to Canada from Kenya I have never been asked to pay taxes on my personal belongings. Nobody at the airport is interested in what my shirt or Kitenge Suit costs. They hardly even notice such things. They have more important things to do at the airport instead of rampaging through my personal items.

Can Ruto and his confused cabinet have a meeting and address this taxation on personal goods and items from Kenyans and tourists?

Instead of holding cabinet meetings for prayers, can the Ruto government treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves?

From the media, we hear that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has a new push to collect taxes on travellers’ personal and household items.

According to Citizen News here are the issues being raised all over the place on the new tax.

The taxman came under intense online scrutiny after issuing a directive seeking to tax travellers or passengers arriving into the country from international destinations to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with items worth USD500 and above, which is equivalent to Ksh.75,000.

Reactions varied from alleged poor handling of arrivals at the JKIA, long queues and exploitation after KRA announced social media platform X.

The KRA passenger guidelines include all passengers on first arrival who intend to change their residencies to Kenya.

This includes missionaries, military personnel or aid agencies who take up appointments in Kenya. It also includes diplomats and foreign students as well as returning residents.

“I’ve seen something coming out saying we are taxing everything that you are coming with when you have travelled out of the country you’ll always come with the clothes, the bags,” David Ontweka, the KRA deputy commissioner for policy and international affairs, customs and border control told Citizen TV.

“Where you purchased goods that are more than 500 dollars you will be required to declare them for example if you go out there and you buy a phone and you go with another phone, you will be required to come and tell the officer that I have an extra phone.”

If this matter is not resolved, the next time I am coming to Kenya from Toronto which will be in February 2024 I will go to the electronic junkyard in Toronto and collect all these items and bring them to Nairobi and once the KRA asks me to pay tax on them I will tell them to take those gems of mine and hit the market with them.

Taxable items exceeding five hundred us dollars include clothes, personal and household effects and phones, among others.

“The goods that have been checked in will be scanned by the airline and in most cases the traveller will not even know that the scanning has been done so when you arrive we will only pick out the baggage that has been marked for further verification,” Sally Serem, KRA’s chief manager for passenger clearance at JKIA says.

However, KRA says duty shall not be levied on the goods imported including spirits, wines, water and perfumes not exceeding one litre.

The National Assembly Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee has called out KRA for allegedly harassing and intimidating passengers arriving at JKIA.

“There is a need to clarify which goods are affected and ensure personal effects and electronics are left out,” Nelson Koech, the committee’s chair said on Tuesday.

“This is not the time to be threatening those coming to Kenya, we are entering the peak tourism season.”

The committee says they want the agency to handle tourists professionally and to allow travellers to declare their luggage and where necessary pay duty before landing.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

Kenyans Encouraged To Collect Their Smart Driving Licenses at NTSA

Next Story

Govt Offering Free Tree Seedlings for National Tree Growing Day

Latest from Blog