Lamu Miraa dealers have cried foul after the Kenya Revenue Authority slapped them with a five year Kshs91 million tax bill in arrears.
Speaking to KNA on Tuesday at Mokowe Jetty, the traders expressed concern that the county’s KRA officials were applying high handedness in their pursuit of taxes which they also termed as exorbitant.
Halima Abdi, a main Miraa trader stated that the KRA had arrived at the figure unfairly after she allegedly denied offering a bribe to the KRA officials to reduce the tax bill.
“The KRA officials are saying that we are running a very lucrative business which is not the case as our profit margins are nowhere close to their projections,” Halima stated.
She further stated that the manner in which KRA was trying to enforce the collection was unreasonable as it means that their wares were likely to get spoilt due to delays caused by what she termed as “slow KRA inspections”.
Halima lamented that KRA tax bill was too high and if it remains so, their business was likely to shut down due to lack of profitability.
“We are being overtaxed when you consider that we always have to pay the county levies, daily as well as endure KRA taxation,” Abdi Osman, another Miraa dealer stated.
Osman stated that the KRA tax bill was unreasonable because this was the first time the Miraa wholesale dealers had been contacted by KRA.
“There has been no sensitisation until recently when we were confronted by the KRA officials demanding that we pay Kshs.91 million that they say we owe to the national government,” said Abdulrahman Bilal, another trader stated.
He added that KRA had intimated that they would shut down the Miraa operation, if they failed to pay the tax bill.
Bilal said there was need for the KRA to provide amnesty for the Miraa traders in Lamu since they have been unaware that they need to pay taxes to KRA.
In a rebuttal, KRA Lamu station head, Peter Muriithi stated that the tax collector had been fair in its assessment of the Miraa dealers in Lamu.
“These business people ferry their Miraa across Lamu, to Kiunga and then to Somalia where they make a killing and that is why they have been given the Kshs. 91 million tax bill,” Muriithi stated.
He said his officers had been fair and denied claims that some of his officers might have demanded bribes.
“No customs official would dare ask for a bribe considering “the heat” they’ve seen their colleagues subjected to this past two months, and our targets are high,” he said.
He said that there were also plans to sensitise the Miraa business people, whom he said have had a free reign on the trade without paying taxes ever.
“It is important for all citizens and especially business people to be aware that tax evasion is a crime and it is in their best interest to pay taxes if they want to get better government services,” the senior KRA official added.
He said it was only by paying taxes that they can be able to get better roads through which to ferry their wares because taxes are used to improve infrastructure.
By Amenya Ochieng