The Kenya Revenue Authority has denied arbitrarily taxing or harassing Kenyans arriving into the country through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and other entry points to heavy taxation.
In a statement by KRA acting deputy commissioner of policy and international affairs David Ontweka, the Authority instead said that only goods worth a purchasing value of more than USD 500 (Sh75,000) and which included more than one item were subject to tax.
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Ontweka added that contrary to reports on social media and in the public domain, not all goods were subject to taxation. He said that the process is part of an already existing East African Community policy.
“KRA will not tax everything you are coming with, we only tax goods you purchase which are valued at USD500 and are more than one,” Ontweka said.
The statement by KRA comes in the backdrop of uproar from members of the public and section of leaders over reports that the commission had introduced punitive tax policies targeting Kenyans arriving into the country.
On Wednesday, politicians led by National Assembly’s defence and foreign relations committee chairman Nelson Koech and Senate leader of majority Aaron Cheruyiot asked the commission to re-evaluate the policy to avoid cases of harassment and abuse.
The two leaders alongside Kenyans, termed the directive a bad publicity for the country, which they argued could reverse some of the gains already made, including in sectors such as that of tourism.
Koech said that some KRA officials have also been taking advantage of the directive to harass tourists, hence giving the country bad publicity.
“We are entering the peak tourism season and His Majesty King Charles III’s visit to Kenya is poised to give our tourism a very big boost. The KRA’s passenger Terminal Guidelines could not have come at a worse time. This is not the time to be threatening those coming to Kenya,” Mr Koech said.
“We agree, the laws around the world impose limitations on the amount of goods but that should not be an excuse to threaten passengers, harass travellers or infringe on the privacy of tourists,” he added.
Cheruyiot on the other hand asked the National Assembly Finance Committee’s intervention to investigate and clarify the matter.
“The National Assembly Finance Committee holds the key to alleviating the national shame that is the KRA searches at JKIA. By providing the necessary clarity needed to distinguish goods for commercial ventures and personal items,” the senator said.