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Kenya mulls legal reforms to boost tax revenue

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday the country needs policy and legal reforms to boost tax revenues.

Kenyatta told a tax forum in Nairobi that whereas commendable strides have been made to improve the tax environment for individuals and business, more reforms needs to be done in both tax policy and tax administration.

“Treasury must consistently review tax policy and propose legislation to rationalize areas of duplication to simplify compliance at all levels and also encourage self declaration and make it all easier for all Kenyans to willingly pay taxes using the most convenient tools at their disposal,” Kenyatta said during the taxpayers’ day event, which is organized every year to honor distinguished taxpayers.

The highlight of the event was the launch of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Integrated Scanner Command and Control Center, a web-based solution that integrates all KRA scanners with the aim of monitoring their operations.

The center will create synergy in image analysis, thereby improve non-intrusive inspection of cargo, and boost trade facilitation.

Kenyatta said that over the past few years, the impressive growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) has outstripped the growth of the tax base and as a result it tend to fall upon on few citizens to carry the burden of many.

He noted that the government has taken steps to widen the tax base by implementing more broad based taxes as a means to bring more Kenyans into the tax net.

“But the reforms are far from enough to sustain our national aspirations,” he added.

The Kenyan leader said that the tax regime should support the aspirations of the “Big Four” agenda of affordable housing, universal healthcare, manufacturing and food security, and should be aligned to mobilize investment, both domestic and foreign.

The tax laws must also reflect the seriousness of tax collection and the consequences of default, Kenyatta said.

There should be no room for tax evaders to thrive in Kenya, and that criminal cartels like those who smuggle imported taxable goods through the points of entry should be easily detected and contained in the shortest possible time.

He directed the KRA to incorporate technology in its operations and use big data to predict revenue trends and detect leakages.

Traders who operate fake electronic tax registers should also be prosecuted for contravening the law, the president said.

He said high net worth individuals whose lifestyles are not reflective of the taxes that they pay ought to be compelled to demonstrate the sources of their wealth.

Henry Rotich, cabinet secretary in the national treasury, said that the selflessness and hard work of patriotic taxpayers has enabled Kenyans to fund its development programs.

Government efforts to enlist more tax payers is bearing fruit as more Kenyans are embracing voluntary tax compliance by enrolling into the iTax platform, Rotich said.

The KRA is collaborating with the ministry of education to ensure that a “tax culture” is entrenched in the value system of children, he added.


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