KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY HON.UHURU KENYATTA

SPEECHES 31/10/2018

Distinguished Tax Payers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has often been said that there are only two guaranteed certainties that every person must endure in life; the first is taxes and the second is death. The common denominator between the two being the difficulty of letting go, either of one?s money or of one?s life.

It is therefore quite an impressive achievement that we convene here today for the 15th year running to celebrate people who pay taxes willingly and diligently. Pongezi!

Historically, this event has been celebrated annually in October a few days after Mashujaa Day as a stark reminder of the link between the attainment of our independence by our Freedom Heroes and the efforts of our modern day Heroes who sustain our sovereignty through the payment of taxes.

You will recall that during my address to the Nation on Jamhuri Day last year, I outlined my Administration?s road map towards shared prosperity for all Kenyans. This blue print referred to as the Big Four, is in essence an acceleration of our third medium term plan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The four priority areas are the attainment of food and nutrition security, the provision of affordable housing, the provision of affordable health care for all and increased job creation through the expansion of our manufacturing base. Over the last 10 months my administration has focused its efforts towards laying a robust legal, policy and financial foundation to support these priorities.

Having been through this exercise in painstaking detail, it is clearer now, more than ever before that there is a need for us to pay a lot more attention to both tax payers and tax collectors, because our Nation?s future lies in your hands.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The role of taxes and the tax collector can trace its roots to the earliest point of organised communal living, where every member of the society contributed a small portion of their worldly belongings into a pool for the wellbeing of the community to be sustained. Thousands of years later, little has changed, love them or hate them both taxes and the tax collector are here to stay.

It is for this reason, that today?s gathering is so important, because it recognises the essence of a mutually inclusive existence between the state and its citizens, between taxes and development. There can be no State without people, there can be no development without taxes and there can be no taxes without the generation of wealth by our people. This recognition puts us all at par.

It is through the consistent payment of taxes by millions of Kenyans that my Administration has managed to successfully oversee one of the most audacious transformations in governance from a centralised to a devolved system of government in 5 short but extremely intense years.

This, accompanied by an unprecedented expansion of the country?s transport infrastructure, increased investment in security, maternal health programmes and free day secondary education coupled with a more than 100% increase of Kenyans with access to electricity in their homes. These are just but a few of the examples of what your taxes have funded. We have a lot to be proud of.

Today gives us the opportunity as the Government to show respect to every taxpayer and to express to each one of them our gratitude for their diligence. It also gives us the opportunity to reflect as a collective on those things that can be done to improve the environment for taxation so as to be fair in its application, efficient in its administration and effective in its utilisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Even as we celebrate today, we must cast our eyes towards the future and begin to anticipate the needs of our growing economy and our youthful and restless population, hungry for opportunity and self-actualization.

Programmes earmarked for implementation under the Big Four are purposed to create wealth and opportunities for this very demographic. However, these programmes require resources that are provided by those of you who pay taxes. It is not lost on me that over the past few years the impressive growth of our GDP has outstripped the growth of the tax base and as a result, it tends to fall upon a few citizens to carry the burden of many.

We have in the recent past taken steps to widen the tax base and seek the implementation of more broad-based taxes as a means of bringing more Kenyans in to the tax net. However, these reforms are still far from enough to sustain our national aspirations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I stand here to salute the KRA and the National Treasury for the implementation of the joint revenue enhancement programme, and more recently, the commissioning of the Scanner Command and Control Centre, I would like to state categorically that whereas we have made commendable strides in making our tax environment better suited for individuals and businesses, more needs to be done on both tax policy and on administration for us to have a fit for the future tax regime.

Specifically, the National Treasury must consistently review our tax policies and propose legislation to rationalize areas of duplication , simplify compliance at all levels, encourage self-declarations and make it easier for all Kenyans to willingly pay their taxes using the most convenient tools at their disposal. The tax regime should support the aspirations of the Big Four and should be aligned to mobilize investment, both domestic and foreign to leverage the opportunities created therein.

At the same time, the law must reflect the seriousness of tax collection and the consequences of default. There should be no room for tax evaders to thrive in Kenya, criminal cartels like those smuggling imported taxable goods through our ports of entry ought to be easily detected and contained in the shortest time possible.

Traders operating fake electronic tax registers and pocketing the VAT that they collect should be brought to heel.

High net worth individuals whose lifestyles are not reflective of the taxes that they pay (if any) must be compelled to demonstrate the source of their wealth and to contribute their share of taxes accordingly.

Towards this end, the use of technology as an enabler, is an immediate necessity and KRA must incorporate cutting edge technology in every aspect of its operations.

From customer care operations, detection of evasion to payment of taxes, maximum advantage should be taken of Kenya?s increasing ICT literacy rate. Every effort must be made to reduce the need for manual human interventions in what should be fully automated processes.

Use of big data to predict revenue trends and to detect leakages should be the norm and this sort of data should be used to equip policy makers with the right information to improve the quality of government policies across the board.

I expect the KRA to leverage the benefits of the soon to be rolled out, National Integrated Identity Management System as another tool in their arsenal.

Similarly, KRA as the most established and experienced tax collection entity in the country should forge a closer working relationship with County Governments to improve the revenue collection of devolved entities.

This relationship should take advantage of the multi-agency initiative to map the country?s major towns and cities. The use of digital maps to identify parcels of land and the nature of developments thereon could potentially bring in millions of additional tax payers in to the fold.

It is only through the use of technology that we can ensure that every income earning Kenyan is able to fulfil their civic duty as a tax payer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This picture would not be complete without drawing attention to the role of integrity in tax collection. Just like old times, the role of the tax collector today remains a solemn and powerful responsibility, one that can easily be abused.

We continue to place a heavy duty on tax payers to comply with the law, however there is an equal expectation that those charged with the duty of tax collection do not use their positions of influence to engage in extortion or acts of complicity with tax evaders.

I am cognizant that majority of the staff at KRA are a dedicated team of men and women who have managed impressive results in extremely trying circumstances, particularly over the last year or so following the electioneering period.

This said, I need not over-emphasize the fact that there is already an ongoing lifestyle audit of KRA officers in sensitive positions.

I expect the investigative agencies responsible to act swiftly and without remorse on those found to have abused their privileged status as tax collecting men and women. Let them face the law and be accountable for their misdeeds.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I conclude my remarks, I wish to congratulate all those who shall be receiving awards and mentions today for their exemplary commitment and great patriotism as tax paying citizens of Kenya.

I only ask that you do not tire in this duty and that next year, you will still be on the record as committed and compliant.

I would also like to commend KRA and The National Treasury for maintaining this important tradition of reward and recognition in the arena of tax payment. We must always remember to celebrate our victories, big or small and this is definitely one of those big ones.

To my fellow Kenyans, I will close by saying, Tulipe Uhsuru Tujitegemee!

Ahsanteni Sana and God Bless you All.