It is typically common that most tax amendments escape the public glare. However, it is almost impossible to forget the Finance Act 2018 that provoked intense public debate from the horde of contentious provisions that it contained.
For a bill that introduced eight percent value added tax (VAT) on fuel, abolished the lower limit of interest payable on deposits and slapped investors with a 30 per cent tax on dividends, no provision was met with as much hue and cry as the 15 percent tax on telephone and internet data services.
It was argued that the tax on the latter was a gross violation to the right to information for Kenyans.
Moreover, it was also considered ironic that while the government’s tax on the internet would consequently shrink connectivity, a large number of government services such as the processing of drivers licences, land transfers, parking fees and licenses are offered online.
However, the core challenge with the provision is its ambiguity. The term ‘internet and data services’ is a broad term that can be subject to different interpretation and even speculation.
It has therefore been construed that it also blanketly applies to the aspects of access of research data, sharing of research data as well as to research data service operators and suppliers.
To the agricultural research landscape, the tax is unnecessarily punitive and at worst, crippling to the agricultural sector. Here’s why. It is not lost to us that the enthusiasm to share agricultural research and data has only caught up with the sector in the recent past. A culture of isolationism previously dominated the agricultural research space.
However, the domineering need for research datasets to be free and broadly available has eventually taken its turn on the podium with major research institutions making their research open access.
Consequently, the benefits of open access knowledge and data have already started trickling in.