KRA flags betting millions paid in cash

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) domestic taxes chief manager Miriam Sila addressing journalists in Nairobi on taxation in the betting sector on March 28, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is paying close attention to huge cash payments by betting firms, which points to a possibility of tax evasion and money laundering in this cash-rich sector.

Because cash is one of the options in the modes of payments, KRA says it has noticed a trend where betting companies, unlike other sectors, have increasingly paid in cash, making it difficult to follow the money trail.

The cash transactions have raised a red flag at a time when some punters are paying betting firms using untraceable cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, making it difficult for KRA to collect taxes.

KRA Chief Manager Domestic taxes Miriam Sila on Tuesday said they are cases where they have bumped into huge figures—as much as Sh100 million—with its mode of payment being cash.

“That is just one area, there might another one with a similar amount. That tells you the collection was done during the night, it is not banked, it is still somewhere in cash. That is why you can utilise it to go pay your taxes in cash,” said Sila.

This comes at a time when KRA has integrated its system with that of 16 betting firms allowing for daily remittances of excise and withholding taxes paid by punters as well as related data.

The 15 percent betting tax that is paid by the betting firm is, however, excluded from this integration that has helped the taxman collect a record Sh22.5 billion in taxes from the betting sector in the first nine months of the current financial year ending June 2023.

In the financial year 2021/22, KRA collected Sh21 billion from this sector, a figure that has already been surpassed in the first nine months.

KRA hopes that with the introduction of the daily payments where firms are paying the two taxes—7.5 percent excise tax on the amount staked and 20 percent withholding tax on winnings—through a pay bill maintained by a telecoms operator, cash payments will fall.

Additionally, KRA officials said the BCLB, the gaming and betting regulator, was working on a centralised monitoring system such as the one in use in Canada and Australia, which will enable them to track all activities being done by betting companies in real-time.

“Right now, they (the betting companies) are the ones assessing and reporting. With a centralised monitoring system, we will be able to see the activities that happen on the premises of the taxpayer,” said Sila.

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