Kenyans seeking jobs at KRA face tough vetting rules

Taxpayers line up outside the Kenya Revenue Authority offices to file their tax returns in the past. Tax agents face tough vetting rules. Photo/FILE
Taxpayers line up outside the Kenya Revenue Authority offices to file their tax returns in the past. Tax agents face tough vetting rules. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Hundreds of applicants eyeing tax agency jobs with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) face tougher vetting rules aimed at improving integrity.

Under the new regulations, all applicants who are members of professional associations such as the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) and Law Society of Kenya (LSK), are required to channel their application through those bodies for vetting.

Other applicants are required to give a detailed curriculum vitae stating their work experience, academic and professional qualifications. All applicants are also required to present tax compliance certificates.

“For persons practising as firms or other legal entities, the registration shall be issued in the individual names of the proprietors,” KRA said in a circular seeking to enforce Legal Notice No.60 on tax agent regulations 2012 which took effect on Tuesday.

According to Legal Notice No.60, the Minister for Finance is required to establish a committee—The Tax Agents Committee— to consider all the applications for registration of tax agents and investigate any allegations of misconduct made against tax agents.

The committee shall comprise of— a chairperson, who shall be from the private sector with at least 10 years experience and holds a degree in taxation, finance, accounting, or law from a university recognised in Kenya.

ICPAK and LSK will also have a representative each in the committee. There will also be three other persons who have at least five years experience and hold a degree in taxation, finance, accounting or law from a university recognised in Kenya.

These regulations, however, shall not apply to non-residents who are temporarily in Kenya for the sole purpose of representing clients on tax matters.

The new regulations signed by Finance minister Njeru Githae in June last year are expected to help weed out rogue agents who have in the past abused their positions to carry out fraudulent transactions.

Tax agents picked by KRA are usually qualified accountants or lawyers who specialise in applying taxation laws to accounting data to determine the correct taxable income of an individual or business entity.

It is considered a high-risk occupation because if a mistake is made the client could be subjected to penalties and the agents may face criminal charges for setting up a scheme to avoid tax or conspiracy to defraud the government.

Several agents implicated in suspected fraudulent deals or wilfully issued false information are currently under probe by KRA with some cases having been forwarded to the disciplinary committee of ICPAK.

KRA director-general John Njiraini said last year they would tighten vetting rules for applicants for the positions of tax agents in line with new regulations.

“We do not anticipate therefore that in the future, persons who fall foul of professional discipline requirements will be accorded opportunity to act as tax practitioners. Neither do we expect the same for those who fail to fulfil tax compliance obligations,” he said.

ICPAK national chairman Patrick Mutange said Thursday the association would participate in the vetting process of tax agents once Treasury forms a committee to handle the task.

Under the new regulations investigations on misconduct against tax agents would commence immediately the KRA boss receives any complaints which would then be shared with the committee.

Where the complaint is against a member of a recognised professional association, the Tax Agents Committee may refer the matter to the association for investigation and determination in accordance with the code of conduct of that association.