The President of Kenya signed the Finance Bill 2018 after a stormy debate in Parliament last week that saw chaotic arguments about vote procedure methods used and actual vote counting mainly with regards to VAT on petrol products.
Some of the earlier clauses in the Finance Bill had been highlighted and KPMG, which has done a series of articles, has provided a further update on aspects of the laws in Kenya and which they termed “..the changes present an unprecedented disruption of the tax regime that will impact the economy and citizenry for years to come.”
Their perspective on the signed Finance Bill implications:
- Excise duty on services: The President accepted Parliament’s decision to drop a Robin Hood tax of 0.05% on money transfers above Kshs 500,000 (~$5,000). But the shortfall was replaced by an increase in taxes on all telephone and internet data services, fees on mobile money transfers, and all other fees charged by financial institutions which all now go up by 50% – and which KPMG writes may have a negative impact on financial inclusion.
- A national housing development levy was approved. With the country’s wage bill of Kshs 1.6 trillion, KPMG estimates that government can potentially collect Kshs 48 billion a year (~$480 million) from the levy, (Kshs 24 billion of which will be from employers) – a massive amount when compared to the Kshs 12.8 billion that NSSF – the National Social Security Fund collects in a year. Regulations for the National Housing Development Levy Fund (NHDF) have not been set, other than that the payments are due by the 9th of the following month. For employees who qualify for affordable housing, they can use that to offset housing costs but for those who don’t qualify, they will get a portion of their contributions back after 15 years.
- Petroleum VAT: KPMG says that a significant portion of the government’s tax targets for 2018/19 was dependent on value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products and that is why they have been insistent on having this implemented. Sectors that supply exempt services such as passenger transport (PSV’) and agriculture producers are expected to raise their charges to customers as they are unable to claim back the 8% VAT tax.
- Kerosene, which is used by low-cost households, takes a double hit with the introduction of VAT as well as an anti-adulteration tax of Kshs 18 per litre. Already kerosene now costs more than diesel in some towns around the country.
- Excise duty on sugar confectionery, while opposed by sugar industry groups, was reinstated in a move similar to other countries that are trying to address lifestyle diseases by introducing taxes on sugar products.
- The betting industry, whose survival which was at stake, gets a reprieve as the gaming and lotteries taxes, introduced on January 1, were reduced from 35% to 15%. Many of the prominent betting companies had scaled back their advertising and sponsorship and had turned to engage in serious lobbying efforts ever since. Also, an effective 20% tax on winnings has now been introduced. The earlier tax law allowed bettors to claim some deductions if they kept records, but that has been removed altogether.
In a year in which there were crucial changes proposed to Kenya’s tax system, the National Assembly passed the Finance Bill 2018, but the President refused to assent to it and sent it back to Parliament with his proposed amendments to fuel, banking, housing, gambling and other taxes.
Sectors affected by the memorandum.
- Banking: For every transaction your bank charges you, currently there is a 10% levy which will now go up to 20%. Also, the fee on money transfer and mobile banking services will be 20% on excisable value – up from a proposed 12.5%.
- Telecommunications: a tax on telephone and Internet services will be 20%, up from an earlier 15% tax on the excisable value
- Food: He proposed reinstating a sugar confectionery tax that parliament had dropped.
- Fuel; Kerosene will cost the same as diesel after the introduction of an anti-adulteration tax. VAT which Parliament had pushed back by another two years, and which the President wrote would cause a Kshs 35 billion shortfall in this year’s budget. He, therefore, proposed an immediate reinstatement of VAT at 8%. (VAT in the country is levied at 16% for all other goods and services that qualify).
- Housing: Employers shall pay a new housing development levy on behalf of employees – with the employer’s contribution at 1.5% of salary and the employees at 1.5% of salary – up to a maximum of Kshs 5,000 – to be remitted on the 9th of the following month to the proposed National Housing Development Fund.
Employees who don’t qualify for the low-cost housing proposed will still have their money go to the Housing Development Fund and will get it back when they retire,
- Gambling: tax reduced from 35% to 15%.
The President also asked Parliament to reduce the national government budget by Kshs 55 billion. Parliament was on a month-long recess but has resumed this week for special sitting sessions relating to the Finance Bill 2018. They received the President’s memorandum on Tuesday 18th September, with the budget committee meeting on Wednesday to review and approve these changes for Parliament to vote on Thursday 20th September.
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has levied bank fines against five institutions over transactions relating to their handling of payments and movement of funds sent from the scandal-plagued National Youth Service (NYS).
The banks are Diamond Trust which handled Kshs 162 million, and was fined Kshs 56 million, Co-operative Bank which handled 263 million (and was fined 20 million), KCB which handled Kshs 639 million (fined 149.5 million), Equity moves Kshs 886 million (89.5 million fine) and Standard Chartered which handled Kshs 1.63 billion from the NYS, and which was fined Kshs 77.5 million.
The CBK statement read that the bank fines followed investigations into failures at the banks including; not reporting large cash transactions, not doing due diligence on customers, lack of support documents for large transactions and lapses in reporting suspicious financial transactions to the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC).
Notably missing was Family Bank that featured heavily in a prominent series of transactions of funds that originated from procurements at the NYS. It has been previously sanctioned and branch and senior staff are being prosecuted.
All the banks which handled NYS funds had been named earlier and the CBK statement added that this was not the end, with an additional group of banks set to be identified and investigated.
A few weeks after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directed local commercial banks to refund foreign currency (forex) it says telecommunications giant MTN had banked through them, the CBN has gone ahead to debit the accounts of two banks it cited for facilitating what it termed as illegal capital repatriation from Nigeria.
The banks mentioned were Standard Chartered, Stanbic IBTC, Citibank, and Diamond Bank which were all directed to refund a total sum of $8.13 billion for breaching Nigeria’s forex rules on behalf of MTN.
It was later reported that the CBN had debited N2.4 billion ($7.9 million) in fines from Standard Chartered and N1.2 billion from Citigroup. The CBN spokesman said they had investigated the remittance of forex by the banks related to irregular certificates of capital importation (CCI’s) issued to offshore investors of MTN and concluded that $3.45 billion was repatriated by Standard Chartered Bank, $2.6 billion by Stanbic IBTC, $1.7 billion by Citibank Nigeria and $348 million by Diamond Bank between 2007 and 2015.
MTN had been in talks to raise funds, possible do an IPO in Nigeria which is their largest market, like a recent one in Ghana. In various statements to shareholders on the matter, MTN said they are a law-abiding corporate citizen and that the issue of historic dividends allegedly repatriated by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015 had been investigated and concluded at the Nigerian senate which found that there was no collusion to contravene forex laws.
MTN’s has since sued the CBN and Attorney General of Nigeria to restrain them from taking further action against assets of the company.
Members of the Vuna pension scheme by Zamara met at their annual general meeting (AGM) in Nairobi this week to get updates of the previous year during which the fund grew by 10% to Kshs 2.37 billion. It was a year in which they rebranded from Alexander Forbes Kenya and one in which, the Nairobi Securities Exchange, which had its last good year in 2013 (when it was up 44%), managed to rebound in 2017 to 28% after dipping in the years in-between.
Zamara’s Vuna takes the view that saving for retirement is not a priority among many Kenyans who are juggling many financial requirements every day – so they have designed products for people to save what they can, when they want – people such as the self-employed, small business owners, individuals, overseas workers, and those who work in organizations that don’t have formal retirement pensions plans. They also accept lump sum contributions and M-Pesa payments.
Vuna has over 5,000 individuals and 180 small companies as members and they give different options for savers according to their risk tolerance, for them to be pooled in the conservative, moderate or aggressive investor portfolios and members can switch their investor profiles once a year. They added an online portal for members to track their contributions and an app that helps members do projections about their retirement savings. This year they are adding a new group life assurance scheme.
They updated members on changes to their schemes, tax rule and answered questions such as on how to deal with employers who don’t remit deductions and how they decided on making payments to families of members who have not updated their beneficiary list- and they cited a study that showed a higher proportion of women do not list their husbands as their beneficiaries, compared to husbands who list their wives. The meeting ended with an advisory caution to members that the only person you’re 100% sure will take care of an “older you” is a “younger you”.