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How intelligence gathering has boosted KRA’s tax evasion fight

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Times Tower, KRA headquarters, in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Given the depth of tax crimes as an impediment to economic growth, there is a dire need to tighten the noose on the vice by all means possible.
  • Closer home, the fight against tax evasion has in the recent past taken a different approach whose end goal is to decimate the vice as effectively as possible.
  • The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has, notably, prioritised combating tax evasion in its efforts to enhance revenue collection.

Tax crimes such as tax evasion and corruption are top on the list of factors that substantially continue to impair revenue collection efforts across the world. In the process, colossal amounts of money are lost every year.

In an article published by The Borgen Project in 2019 titled ‘Tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa’, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that Africa loses $50 billion annually to tax evasion.

Given the depth of tax crimes as an impediment to economic growth, there is a dire need to tighten the noose on the vice by all means possible.

Closer home, the fight against tax evasion has in the recent past taken a different approach whose end goal is to decimate the vice as effectively as possible.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has, notably, prioritised combating tax evasion in its efforts to enhance revenue collection.

In the new approach to combating tax evasion and other tax related crimes, the KRA is leveraging on the immense potential of intelligence gathering and analysis, among other strategies.

The intelligence management function has been key in the collection of information relating to tax evasion, cyber-crime and corruption. The function has continued to enhance the capacity to penetrate and quash tax evasion cartels.

The outcomes registered lately show that the intelligence-driven strategies are bringing down intricate tax evasion webs with unmatched efficacy.

In the 2019/2020 financial year, for instance, the KRA successfully foiled tax evasion schemes which could have seen the government lose approximately Sh259 billion.

Through intelligence gathering and analysis, the KRA also managed to profile 1,309 individuals for tax purposes in the financial year that ended in June 2020.

In the same period, 367 tax evasion cases worth Sh65.93 billion were filed. From the cases, 303 were prosecuted for tax fraud. This translated to a performance of 51 percent. In the process, the KRA recovered Sh62.8 billion in revenue. The Intelligence and profiling office has further given the KRA an upper hand in tackling other vices such as illicit trade.

Illicit trade equally account for a monumental share of government revenue that ends up in the insatiable pit of tax evasion.

LOST REVENUES

Through intelligence management, the KRA in collaboration with multi-agency teams have made 100 interceptions of assorted illicit products within the 2019/2020 financial year.

The intercepted products were valued at Sh1.2 billion and largely comprised of electronics, alcoholic, cigarettes and assorted food products.

The adverse effect of illicit trade is threefold. First, it denies government a fair share of revenue as one of the primary motives behind illicit trade is tax evasion.

Secondly, goods traded illicitly are potentially hazardous to the unsuspecting consumers. Thirdly, illicit trade stages unfair competition to compliant business ventures. This explains why the vice has to be combated by hook or crook.

Strategic collaborations on tax crime information sharing with local and international agencies are further bolstering the KRA’s capacity to tear down tax evasion networks, both locally and beyond our borders.

The collaborations are anchored on conventions developed by internationally recognised bodies.

This year, for instance, Kenya ratified the Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (MAC) or “The Convention”.

The convention was developed by the OECD and the European Union in 1988 and amended in 2010. The OECD cites the convention as the most comprehensive available instrument for all forms of tax cooperation to tackle tax evasion and avoidance.

The convention will come into force in November 2020 and exchanges of information for tax purposes commence in January 2021.

Ratification of “The Convention” presents Kenya with an opportunity to exchange tax information with over 130 countries in the world thus making it easier to trace cross-border tax evasion practices.

In the past, the KRA has relied on the existing Double Tax Agreements in obtaining tax information. As a result, the KRA has made 29 requests from various countries in pursuit of various taxpayers.

The commendable progress made so far can only mean one thing: the days for tax evasion perpetrators are continually diminishing.

Dr Saidimu is the Commissioner for Intelligence and Strategic Operations at KRA