The Kenya Fair Tax Monitor

Paper author: 
Riva Jalipa and Everlyn Muendo
Paper publication date: 
Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Kenya is in the midst of an economic crisis, with a debt stock that has reached 68.1% of its GDP as of June 2021, the steady growth of inflation and the weakening of the Kenya shilling, Kenya is struggling to finance its public services. As of June 2021, debt servicing had reached 50% of revenue. This has led to the crowding out of spending on critical social sectors such as health, agriculture and social protection that receive less than 10-15% of the national budget. For these reasons, this, compounded with the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic have increased pressure on Kenya’s ability to raise revenue. In the past five years, the government has resorted to introducing taxes such as digital service tax, minimum tax and deepening the excise tax base. While previously viewed primarily as a sin tax, excise duty is being used as a means of increasing tax revenue. For instance, excise duty is now imposed on fees charged by digital lenders, mobile money transfers amongst others. Some of these measures are a result of the fiscal consolidation measures that have been imposed in Kenya through Kenya’s arrangement under the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility. Kenya has so far mostly resorted to inequitable means of raising tax revenue while still maintaining a plethora of unevaluated harmful tax incentives and exemptions and failing to effectively tax wealth. This study proposes recommendations on how Kenya’s tax system can be improved to not only meet the financing gaps for its development but also do so in a fair and equitable manner that ensures that the tax burden is being shared equally. Reorienting existing tax reform programmes away from simply expanding revenue collection towards greater emphasis on how revenue is collected, and how this can contribute to broader state-building goals. This will involve improving equity in tax enforcement and administration, improving public awareness, transparency, taxpayer services, broadening and improving direct taxation. Scoring Methodology of the Study The present study relied mainly on literature review of relevant documents and analysis of secondary data guided by the Common Research Framework (CRF) methodology. Several research questions guided the CRF review and analysis of data from which this report was generated.