Lawmakers have joined Kenyans in protesting a directive by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) seeking to tax personal or household items worth $500 (Sh75,000) and above, whether new or used by tourists visiting the country.
The National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations said some KRA officials have been taking advantage of the directive to harass tourists, hence giving the country bad publicity. The committee chairman Nelson Koech said Kenya instead be working on how to grow the number of tourists visiting the country.
“We are entering the peak tourism season and His Majesty’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. KRA should make it easy for passengers and travellers coming to Kenya to declare their luggage and where necessary pay duty before landing,” he added.
The Belgut MP pointed out that there is a need to clarify which goods are affected and ensure personal effects and electronics are left out.
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“There appears to be mischievous characters at Times Tower who are bent on sustaining negative publicity on taxes. We appreciate that the only way we are going to achieve sustainable development as a country is by paying taxes and becoming dependent on our own resources as a country,” Mr Koech said.
“But even then, there is a need for all agencies of government to go easy on Kenyans and as far as possible avoid coming across as insensitive in making their public announcements,” he said.
“Why would KRA choose when we are preparing for the Royal Visit to remind Kenyans of these new Passenger Rules? Where have they been all along?”
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.
Senate majority leader Aaron Cheruiyot said on his X account that “the National Assembly finance committee holds the key to alleviating national shame that is the KRA searches at JKIA. By providing the necessary clarity needed to distinguish goods for a commercial venture and personal items”.