President Ruto, allies intensify push for tax payment

William Ruto

 President William Ruto speaking at the Deliverance Church International in Ruai, Nairobi County, on February 5, 2023. He said that all Kenyans must pay taxes.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has said his government will not relent on the push to compel all Kenyans to pay taxes. The Head of State said he was happy that Kenyans had accepted to meet their tax obligations.

Speaking during a Sunday service at Deliverance Church International Ruai, in Nairobi, the President emphasised that all Kenyans, irrespective of their status, must pay taxes adding that there will be no tax waivers for anybody.

“I am happy that as a country we have agreed that irrespective of your status, we will have no tax waivers,” said the President.

 “We are all equal before the law and we will pay our taxes in accordance with our income. This is the best consensus we can have as a nation. It will help save our country from debt. We need to get to a point where instead of borrowing we will be lending. That is the trajectory we want to take,” he added.

The President also directed the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to allow all Kenyans to pay their taxes without being frustrated. He directed government agencies to stop taking KRA to court to sort out tax battles.

Pay taxes

“Have discussions with KRA, and roll out a plan to pay your taxes in bits. Stop taking each other to court because you are benefiting lawyers while the government loses money. There will be a circular that all government agencies cannot take KRA to court. If there is a challenge, let there be discussions between the various agencies and settle the matter out of court. We cannot be using public money to go to court so that we stop paying taxes. We have to be united and organised and seamless,” said Ruto.

The President’s response comes a week after he said that unnamed individuals were sponsoring Azimio demonstrations in a bid to be exempted from paying taxes, even as a section of UDA senators pointed fingers at the former President, saying there was a law that exempted the Kenyatta and Moi families from remitting taxes.

“The good people who are used to exempting themselves from paying tax. Every citizen must pay taxes even if they sponsor demonstrations so that they don’t pay taxes. We are going to have a country where every citizen carries a fair share of our burden,” said the President.

In response, Former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta on Saturday said that she was ready to have her property auctioned should she be found to have evaded paying taxes.  

She said that payment of taxes should not be discussed in political meetings.

“There is no need to malign people’s names. Let people be reported for tax evasion and held liable. If I fail to pay, take my property,” she explained.

Drug abuse

While explaining the sad state of the economy, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua asked religious leaders to intercede on behalf of Kenya so than God can bring rain and save youths from drug abuse.

“We request our leaders to intercede for this country. We want them to ask God to save our young people from illicit brews and drugs… Let those who do not believe in the power of prayer do what they know most and leave us to worship our God,” said Mr Gachagua.

Amid the tax stalemate, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said: “The Bible says give therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's. When you are asked to pay taxes, please pay. Do not bring your uncle, grandmother or mother to defend you,” said Cheruiyot.

He asked the President to stand firm and focus on reviving the economy.

“Right now we are known as a nation of debt. But God will give us ideas so that by the time we are leaving the leadership of this country, we shall be lending and not borrowing, not seeking relief food, but giving relief food to other people instead of our own,” he said.

“Do not worry about the noise. Please be bold. Don’t bribe that old man (Raila Odinga). We must stop the business of bribing individuals. Tell him that elections are over,” added Cheruiyot.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said he will move an amendment to the law to remove tax exemptions. 

 “We are losing Sh370 billion through tax exemptions. There are people in this country who do not pay their taxes. I am going for that money because it will pay for bursaries, the construction of roads and help the poor,” he said.

“I want to ask everybody to pay their taxes. We cannot get more teachers if we don’t pay taxes. We cannot get more bursaries if we don’t pay taxes. Kenya’s budget is Sh3.6 trillion. Kenyans pay Sh2.2 trillion in taxes. The taxes that these people haven’t paid is Sh1.7 trillion. If they pay, we will have about Sh3.9 trillion to support Kenyans. They can pay their taxes, then sponsor their demonstrations and go attend them,” he said.   

While hitting back, Mr Raila Odinga accused the President of pretending to look for tax evasion criminals outside his government while hosting them in his government.

“Tax cheats and all sorts of criminals are with Ruto in his government, but he is pretending to be looking for criminals outside his government,” said Raila.