What you need to know:
- Tourism CS Alfred Mutua also voiced his displeasure with the KRA move a fortnight ago.
- Dr Mutua pointed out that other world tourist destinations such as Maldives, Singapore, Dubai and Seychelles treat their tourists with decorum.
There has been outrage over a directive by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to tax personal or household items worth $500 (approximately Sh75,000) and above, whether new or used, by tourists visiting the country.
Members of the National Assembly have also weighed in on the thorny issue, calling on the taxman to act in a humane manner and not harass tourists.
The committee on Defence and Foreign Relations expressed concern that some KRA officials have been taking advantage of the directive to harass tourists, hence giving the country bad publicity.
The committee chairman, Nelson Koech (Belgut MP), said that it is ill-advised to harass visitors at a time when the country is struggling to spur up the number of tourists coming to Kenya.
“We are entering the peak tourism season and 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. KRA should make it easy for 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.
“There appears to be mischievous characters at Times Tower who are bent on sustaining negative publicity on taxes,” he said.
“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.”
But even then, the MP said there is a need for all agencies of the government to go easy on Kenyans, and as far as possible, avoid coming across as insensitive when making public announcements.
“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? He asked.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua also voiced his displeasure with the KRA move a fortnight ago, terming it one of the reasons why the number of tourists visiting the country have been on the decline.
Dr Mutua pointed out that other world tourist destinations such as Maldives, Singapore, Dubai and Seychelles treat their tourists with decorum that is why their number of visitors are always on the rise.
“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? And we wonder why people are not coming to Kenya?” Dr Mutua asked.
Senate Leader of Majority Aaron Cheruiyot also waded into the debate. Taking to his X account, formerly Twitter, he urged the National Assembly Finance Committee to swing into action over the KRA searches going on at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
“The National Assembly Finance Committee holds the key to alleviating the national shame that is the KRA searches at JKIA by providing necessary clarity needed to distinguish goods for commercial venture and personal items,” the senator’s post reads.
While making the announcement on its X account, KRA stated that all travellers bringing along items worth $500 (approximately(Sh75,000) and above will be subjected to taxation.