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KRA to re-launch excise stamp app in fight against illicit goods

Times Tower
Times Tower. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) plans to re-introduce an online application used to distinguish between genuine and fake excise stamps in June, with what it says are enhanced security features.

The taxman’s Commissioner for Intelligence and Strategic Operations, Githii Mburu, said the revamped app will seal loopholes exploited by unscrupulous alcoholic products and cigarette traders in the past.

The move comes three years after the app’s initial launch in September 2016 as KRA sought to weed out fakes and seal revenue leakages.

However, it was later discovered that rogue manufacturers were duplicating genuine serial numbers and slapping them on counterfeits.

“We realised using the serial number only did not address the problem of fake products. The enhanced Soma Label app that will go beyond picking the code (serial number) will make it difficult to counterfeit,” said Mr Mburu.

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The 2016 launch of the app in came the same month that KRA introduced new excise stamps with a QR code for wines, spirits, tobacco and beer to be verified using smartphones.

The app is available on Google Play Store for Android devices and Apple Store for iOS devices.

Its re-introduction comes at a time when KRA is struggling to stop use of fake excise stamps that has led to losses running into billions of shillings in un-paid taxes.

Illicit trade has also had a negative impact on the bottom line of firms like cigarette manufacturer BAT Kenya, which noted in its latest financial update that its performance would have been even stronger were it not for an increase in the sale of counterfeit cigarettes in the local market.

KRA collected Sh162.42 billion in taxes from beer, spirits and cigarettes for the year ended last June, which was a 1.81 percent drop from Sh165.47 billion in the year ended June 2017, according to Treasury data.

This was despite efforts by the taxman to sensitise manufacturers, distributors, retailers, importers and the police on how to use Soma Label to verify genuine alcoholic products.

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