JSC picks first tax tribunal team after Treasury mandate expiry

Chief Justice Martha Koome.

Photo credit: File

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has picked a 10-member team for the Tax Appeals Tribunal, two months after the Treasury Cabinet secretary lost the mandate of making the appointments.

The JSC received the powers to appoint members of the tribunal following the amendment to the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, which came into force in March 2022.

In a communication sent to newsrooms by the JSC secretary Ann Amadi, the Commission has appointed lawyer Ann Waithira Githinji as the tribunal’s secretary following selection interviews conducted on May 31 and June 3, 2022. It also appointed lawyers Rodney Adhiambo, Robert Mugambi, Grace Muthoni and Edwin Muthoni as members (legal) of the tribunal.

Non-legal members are Delilah Kadzo, Njagi Karingo, Tanvir Mohsin, Cynthia Boundi and Kiprotich Kibet.

The commission got the mandate of making the appointments after The Tax Appeals Tribunal (Amendment) Act (2022) came into force.

The amended Act was assented to on February 21 and came into force on March 24. The legal changes increased the tribunal’s independence and freed it from the Executive.

The amendments to the Act transformed the Tax Appeals Tribunal from an institution under the Ministry of Finance to an independent body under the Judicial Service Commission.

The legal changes also allow JSC to appoint members to the Tax Appeals Tribunal on a staggered basis, to avoid the lack of quorum that has in the past derailed hearing of tax disputes.

In the latest recruitment, the commission had advertised 18 positions, meaning eight vacancies will be filled later.

The staggered appointments will stem grounding operations of the tribunal due to the expiry of contracts for members that in 2018 delayed the hearing of cases for over a year, hurting businesses and revenue collection by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

“The Commission (JSC) shall appoint the members of the Tribunal in a staggered manner to ensure that, at all times, at least one-third of the members are in office,” reads the amended Act.

The tribunal handles disputes pitting the KRA and taxpayers and is traditionally the first port of action for tax demand disputes after the internal mechanisms.

The legal changes also allow the tribunal to sit on a full-time basis marking a shift from the past where it held hearings part-time, leading to the piling up of unresolved cases that have, in turn, delayed the collection of taxes by the KRA.

In April, Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani had appointed 18 members of the tribunal, a move that the Law Society of Kenya, led by its president Eric Theuri, opposed.

Mr Theuri said the decision of the CS was unlawful as it amounts to usurpation of powers reserved for the JSC.

Those appointed by the CS included lawyers Bila Helen Winifred Achieng, Mursat Mahat Somane, Mutava Catherine Ngina, Patrick Lutta Odongo, Bosire Nyamori and Ouko Chabeda Mary Reba Maleya.

The Tax Appeals Tribunal was rolled out in 2013 as part of business reforms aimed at boosting the investment climate by offering businesses an avenue to appeal tax demands from the KRA.

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