Most Kenyans support taxes on the rich –Ipsos

Protesters during the Anti-finance bill demonstrations along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi on June 20, 2024. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Amid heated protests in the country against the new proposed taxes that have now been dropped, a new survey has found that a vast majority of Kenyans would be okay with the government introducing taxes that target only the rich.

The survey done by research firm Ipsos, and commissioned by economic think tank Earth4All, reveals that 76 percent of Kenyans would support a higher income tax rate on wealthy people, and 70 percent strongly agree that the rich should pay a tax on their wealth.

A majority of Kenyans, about 81 percent, would also support a proposal to have large businesses pay a higher tax rate, and 76 percent would like the State to tax companies and individuals polluting the environment, the study published last week shows.

Ipsos surveyed 1,000 Kenyans between March 5 and April 8, 2024, for the research.

According to the study, which was conducted in 18 G20 countries including Kenya, most locals who support taxing the wealthy view it as an effective means of redistributing income in a country characterised by a huge inequality gap.

Almost nine in 10 Kenyans (84 percent) believe that there’s “too much economic inequality” in the country these days, and only 37 percent believe in the capitalistic notion that everyone will be better off if only a few people get richer.

As such, Kenyans would like the additional tax income raised from the wealth taxes to be used in economically equalising the country, with about 65 percent saying the government should give every Kenyan a universal basic income (UBI), and 86 percent saying citizens should have access to free or affordable healthcare.

Compared to South Africa, the only other country on the continent surveyed among the 21, Kenyans show a stronger support for wealth taxes and their utilisation in redistribution of income.

In South Africa, 71 percent support a higher income tax on the wealthy, compared to Kenya’s 76 percent, and 74 percent would have large businesses pay a higher tax, compared to Kenya’s 81 percent.

Support for wealth taxes is highest in Indonesia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, where up to 86 percent of the citizens believe the government should impose a tax on wealth for richer citizens.

Kenya currently has few taxes directly on wealth. The closest similarity to a wealth tax in the country is the land rates, whose collection is relatively lower than other jurisdictions around the globe, and the Capital Gains Tax, which was last year raised from five percent to 10 percent. This is charged on the gains from disposal of an asset.

Still, it appears Kenyans would like more taxes targeting only the wealthy and high-income earners.

President William Ruto had alluded to the introduction of new wealth taxes at the onset of his administration in September 2022, when he told lawmakers that Kenya taxes trade more and wealth less.

“The economic principles of equitable taxation require that the tax burden reflects ability to pay. This is best achieved by a hierarchy that taxes wealth, consumption, income and trade in that order of preference. Our tax regime currently falls far short of this,” Ruto said in his inaugural address to parliament in 2022.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.