Kenyan picked to head global tax administration initiative

James Karanja, newly appointed Head of Mission
James Karanja, newly appointed Head of Mission of Tax Inspectors Without Borders. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Kenya has welcomed the appointment of a career tax administrator to head the recently established Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB) global secretariat.

In a statement, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner General John Njiraini described the move to pick Mr James Karanja by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as an affirmative vote for major strides made by Kenya in enhancing tax collection.

“The appointment is expected to cement KRA’s co-operation with OECD which goes back as far as 2008 when Kenya commenced a very productive and still active capacity building engagement on transfer pricing. This platform continues to provide KRA with valuable insights into global tax policy developments as formulated by OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration,” Mr Njiraini said.

End tax evasion

TIWM, established in 2015 by OECD and the United Nations (UN), is mandated with helping developing countries boost domestic revenues by strengthening their tax audit capacities.

Its proponents say the agency can help less developed countries clamp own on tax evasion and illicit cash transfers so as to enable them fund their own development.

Last year, a report by a high-level panel of the African Union revealed that the continent was losing over $50 billion in revenues annually through tax dodgers (mainly multinationals), organised crime masterminds and corruption cartels.

The illicit transfer of cash is also estimated to cost African countries anywhere between 1 and 20 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Under the initiative, international tax audit experts work alongside local officials of developing country tax administrations to help strengthen tax audit capacities including issues concerning international tax matters.

Mr Karanja is a lawyer who served as the International Tax Office Head at KRA and joined the Authority in the Graduate Trainee Program in 2003.

He has served the KRA in various capacities including as a Transfer Pricing Tax Analyst, Policy Advisor in the KRA Domestic Tax Department Policy Unit, Prosecutor and Project Manager handling KRA reform projects.

He has also served as the Africa Tax Administration Technical Committee chairman responsible for the Africa global tax agenda and also represented Kenya on global platforms in Africa and within the OECD G20 BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) project.

Mr Njiraini said the new TIWB appointee had been instrumental in leading Kenya’s compliance with the international standards on exchange of information and signing of the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.

Kenya is expected to be among the first invitees to the new inclusive framework proposed by the OECD for the global implementation of the BEPS project set to be launched in Kyoto Japan on 30 June- 1 July 2016.

The BEPS framework will provide for global tax rule setting and implementation on an equal footing by all participating countries.