The 1.5 per cent charge on all imports into the EAC, referred to as the infrastructure levy, was agreed upon by finance ministers from member states during pre-budget consultations held in Nairobi in May.
Although the ministers agreed the levy was necessary, Kenya has since had a rethink because the tax would duplicate the railway development levy introduced last year to finance the Ksh425 billion ($5 billion) standard gauge railway (SGR).
“The tax that is being proposed is the same as the railway development levy that became effective last year. We will be duplicating it if we implement the infrastructure levy,” said a government official.
The official said that Kenya, being the region’s biggest economy, was also apprehensive on how proceeds from the levy would be shared and was of the view that each country should raise funds for the regional projects falling under its territory.
In January, KRA Commissioner-General John Njiraini told parliament’s Public Investments Committee that the levy had raised Ksh10 billion ($112 million) by December 2013, putting it on course to surpass the Ksh13 billion($145 million) per year target and to hit Ksh20 billion ($224 million) by last month.
The taxman had targeted collecting Ksh6.5 billion ($74.6 million) from the levy in the first half of the past fiscal year.
Treasury intends to charge the levy for four years to raise counterpart funds for the SGR, which will be 85 per cent financed by the Chinese government.
Kenyan officials are of the view that 2017 is the earliest Kenya can implement the infrastructure levy, effectively extending the railway levy, which has been criticized for increasing the cost of goods and going against the East African Customs Union Protocol.
At its November sitting in Kampala, the Council of Ministers granted the East African Business Council (EABC) its wish to have the levy abolished for goods in transit to Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and those being imported from the partner states.
“The Council noted that the levy imposed on imports by Kenya for railway development is inconsistent with the EAC Customs Union Protocol as it is a charge of equivalent effect, which partner states agreed to remove,” the ministers said in a communiqué.
Nikhil Hira a tax partner at Deloitte & Touche, said the infrastructure levy should not apply on inter-EAC imports or to goods with country of origin in one member state imported into another member state.
Source: The East African
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