Bank account, M-Pesa, Social Media - Acting KRA boss Rispah Simiyu reveals how the taxman is watching you

Bank account, M-Pesa, Social Media - Acting KRA boss Rispah Simiyu reveals how the taxman is watching you

KRA Acting Commisioner General Rispah Simiyu.PHOTO|COURTESY

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) may soon be using bank statements, M-Pesa statements as well as reviewing social media activities to crack down on tax evasion by Kenyans.

KRA Acting Commissioner General Rispah Simiyu has divulged on the company’s capacity to access personal information in its mandate of tax compliance.

Speaking on Citizen TV’s The Explainer Show on Tuesday, Simiyu said that the law enables the company to access personal information on individuals’ financial transactions in a bid to curb revenue breaches even though it is yet to have its systems integrated with banks.

“Our Act allows us to access your bank statements, but currently we are not integrated with the banks but at a point when we are integrated, some of these taxes will flow through,” she said.

Simiyu argues that President William Ruto's appeal to the Authority to come up with new ways of increasing the tax base may require the taxman to evaluate other ways of expanding the tax net to increase the number of taxpayers.

“From where we sit now, you need to give us a reason maybe when we look at your activities for example you are importing high-end vehicles but then filing a nil return; that gives us a reason to look further,” Simiyu noted.

“Even the law gives us the comfort and the basis of looking into that, using the justification.”

On how much the Authority has access to a person's personal information, Simiyu said: "As much as the information we can access; such as bank statements [as well as] Kenyans transacting on mobiles.”

Even though the commissioner clarified that KRA does not currently check M-Pesa statements, she hinted at a move to reconsider, underscoring that the government will only focus on financial transactions.

“We don’t want access to your private information because what we are looking at is financial transactions…that is what we are limiting ourselves to,” she explained.

Simiyu argues that a lot of transactions are carried out through mobile money and thus the need to have the government secure the space to curb tax breaches.

“Before you get to the day-to-day of the transfers there are the PayBills, the till numbers…When you are talking about telcos, it brings us to the question; what can we do more? What else can we check to ease the burden on those already paying taxes?" She posed.

The acting KRA boss acknowledges looking into mobile transactions will raise concerns but says there may be a need to create a fair environment for revenue collection.

“If we go in that direction, you will hear the noise but then on the other side there is the noise of those who say you keep coming back to me yet I know you can actually do more…so it is a delicate balance but the work needs to be done,” said Simiyu.

Regarding the social media platforms, Simiyu says the Authority checks online platforms to ensure there is compliance.

"We have a team that collects taxes on intelligence. It can be collected from everywhere; it can be social media, what you post, in publications which you have …so yes, we look anywhere and everywhere where we can access information,” she added.

With the rising trend of flaunting cash, jewellery or high-end vehicles on social media, Simiyu noted that KRA does background checks such as liaising with NTSA to ascertain vehicle number registrations to find out about the ownership.

"...KRA will not base any assessment on that (online posts). We do a little bit of groundwork to get to that… It is not about taking a selfie and saying Maldives/Dubai manenos then we slamming you with 30 or 40 per cent (tax)...," Simiyu stated.


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