Small scale traders who import goods under one container will soon be required to pay individual taxes once they provide their data to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Julius Musyoki, Commissioner for Customs and Border Control, told Parliament that traders who have been importing goods in groups using one container under one person’s name will be required to file the certificate of conformity separately.
“We will require consolidators importing goods under one container to submit individual pin numbers, identity card numbers and mobile phone numbers.
“Even if they declare the cargo under one name, each of the consolidators will file individual records to claim their goods. This will see them included into the tax base,” Mr Musyoki told the Senate Committee on Tourism and Trade chaired by Charles Kibiru.
The committee is inquiring into a petition filed by Nairobi Importers and Traders Association through Senator Johnson Sakaja.
The traders had petitioned Parliament against the taxman’s decision to destroy all goods in a container found with a few contraband items, arguing that only the illicit goods should be have been seized. This is because a single container could carry goods for up to 10 different traders, giving them little control over what is in the container. Destroying all the goods simply because a few items were fake amounts to punishing honest traders in the pool, they argued.
Besides custom duties, downtown merchants have for long evaded the taxman’s dragnet on their earnings because the informal sector is hard to police.
The Nairobi Importers and Traders Association, through Ben Mutahi, said it has more than 150,000 members. Yesterday, Mr Musyoki said most consolidators were duped by those who cleared their goods which were mis-declared as machinery that attracts zero rate duty in order to pay low taxes.
“We intercepted all these consignments after scanning. Those who did this withdrew from clearing it and the traders demonstrated. This was not normal delay, it originated from the clearing side,” he told the Senators
He said the government has since held discussions with the traders and agreed to grant a waiver on demurrages charges and the cost at container freight stations to enable them clear their cargo.
“We are going to register consolidated importers to formally recognise them and check their compliance status. We will give the traders ample time to clear what is in the clearing process. We will be giving them a simplified version of the certificate of conformity to be able to clear their goods going forward,” Mr Musyoki said.
He said the proposal will enable KRA to know who is bringing in goods through the consolidated imports.
“Currently we have one person registering as the importer where there is consolidation. But what will happen is that each person will have a bill of lading that draws from a master bill of lading.”