Category Archives: Investing in Kenya

Kenya Income Tax Cuts, Increases, and Other changes 2018

The Kenya government, through the National Treasury, is proposing some long overdue changes to the country’s income tax laws, which are contained in a draft bill that will be submitted to Parliament.

The bill has new clauses that affect transfer pricing, new extractive (oil & gas) industries, phase out of turnover tax, and an apparent tax cuts. It comes after other recent changes to the tax code. Kenya also has an ongoing waiver and amnesty program for income tax and assets held outside Kenya to be declared and repatriated to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)  by June 30.

Leading accounting and audit firms such as KPMG, PWC, and Deloitte have looked deep into the clauses, and these are some of their findings: 

KPMG:

  • Companies are to produce and maintain transfer pricing documentation and policies in place for the year of income.
  • The withholding tax threshold of Kshs 24,000 had been deleted.
  • Payments to non-resident petroleum contractors will be 20% (up rom the current 12.5%)
  • Developers who build over 400 houses to pay taxes of 15% on gains.
  • Micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) interest will be exempt from withholding tax.
  • Sports clubs & associations will get taxed on entrance fees and subscriptions.
  • Farms, warehouses or doing consultancy work for more than 91 days in a year are now considered permanent establishments. KPMG comment – This will require non-resident persons doing business in Kenya to re-think their operational models.
  • A listed company will pay 25% taxes for five years if 40% of its shares are floated.  KPMG  comment – this will reduce the impact of taxation as an incentive to list.

Deloitte:

  • Income tax rate of 35% on more than Kshs 750,000 (~$7,500) per month
  • Non-residents’ who receive their pensions in Kenya will pay a tax of 10% on transfers (up from 5%) 
  • A higher corporate tax of 35% for large companies with taxable income over Kshs 500 million (~$5 million).
  • Real-estate capital gains tax of 20% (up from the current 5%). Deloitte comment – Though the increment is quite steep, it enhances equity considering that CGT is regarded as a tax on wealth.
  • Equality: Each person in a marriage is now required to file their own tax returns: no more cases of wives having their incomes filed under husband’s income tax returns.  
  • Mining & Oil: Losses can be carried forward for a maximum of 14 years (There is no current cap)
  • EPZ holiday removed: Now EPZ’s will pay 10% tax for the first 10 years, and 15% for the next ten years (other companies pay 30% corporate tax).
  • SACCO’s: Cooperative societies to pay a withholding tax on dividends and bonuses of 10% (up from the current 5%) 
  • Subsidiaries in Kenya to pay 10% tax on dividends remitted to the parent companies.
  • E-commerce: The Treasury Cabinet Secretary will be allowed to introduce taxes on digital platforms.
  • Capital allowances reduced: The 150% allowance for investments outside cities has been removed, those for filming equipment reduced from 100% to 50%, and educational institutions from 50% to 10%.
  • Small businesses, that are licensed by counties, will pay a presumptive tax of 15% of the business permit fee. Deloitte comment – (this) replace the turnover tax, currently at the rate of 3% of a person’s turnover (KRA has faced challenges collecting) ..  will require collaboration with the county governments. 

PWC

  • All medical insurance paid by employers for employees is now tax-exempt (even for expatriate staff) and age limits for children covered goes up from 21 to 24 years.
  • withholding tax of 5% will be levied on payments to foreign insurance companies. PWC comment – this is aimed at promoting local insurance companies.
  • Income tax exemptions that have been dropped include income of the Export-Import Bank of the USA (relates to Kenya Airways?). Also on the income of stockbrokers from trading in listed shares. PWC comment – this may have a negative impact on the growth of the capital markets in Kenya;
  • 20% withholding tax on payment to non-Kenyan companies for horticultural exports. 
  • 20% withholding tax on payment of air-tickets to non-resident agents. PWC comment – may lead to increase in airline ticket prices in Kenya which may affect competitiveness of local airlines.

They also looked at other recent tax adjustments which PWC notes will mainly alleviate the government from paying VAT refunds.

  • Milk, maize, bread, bottled water, will all cost more after moving from “0%” VAT to “exempt” VAT as importers will pass on non-recoverable VAT to consumers.
  • Same for LPG gas, some medicines and agricultural pest control inputs.
  • Making housing affordable. PWC comment – the Government is also proposing a stamp duty exemption for the purchase of a house by a first time home owner under an affordable housing scheme
  • Betting/Gambling: For winnings, a 20% tax will be deducted at source i.e the betting company) on any prizes (this is up from the current 5%)

Other Clauses in the Income Tax bill

  • Parent companies are to file country-by-country reports with KRA within 12 months of year-end.
  • No capital gains tax is due on land if it is compulsorily acquired by the government.
  • No capital gains on listed securities.  
  • While there is a new 35% tax for the rich, the income tax bill appears to lower taxes for the low-income.  e.g. someone earning Kshs 40,000 (~$400) per month, who pays 5,932 in tax per month now after personal relief, will have a lower tax burden.  Income tax bands are expanded in the 10% range (now up to 13,000 from the previous 10,000) and there is also a higher relief of Kshs 1,408 versus the current 1,162) and the resulting net tax for the person will now be Kshs 5,009 for the month – a 15% income tax cut?.  
  • Tax rate of 15% for five years for local vehicle assemblers. This can be extended by another 5 years if the company achieves 50% local content value in the vehicles.  
  • Taxes waived on the income of disabled persons, amateur sports associations, and NGO’s (relief, poverty, religion, distress) whose regional headquarters are located in Kenya.  

Finally, other stakeholders are invited to review the proposed changes to the 103-page income tax bill and submit comments via email to ITReview2017_at_treasury.go.ke by May 24.

7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets – Day Two

Summary of day one of the BAFM.  

The second day of the 7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets seminar continued with more explanations on changes in the global scene and how they could affect African exchanges.

Michele Carlsson of Nasdaq said immediate top compliance concerns were the need to fully understanding regulations and how they affect exchanges, and the inability of technology to meet current market requirements. She said it was important for exchanges to have market surveillance systems that could look at several assets classes, do powerful visualizations, have flexible alerting, and enable real-time controls as well as being scalable and resilient.

Anne Clayton of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange spoke on the impact that various new European Union regulations that could have on African capital markets. These include rules on general data protection (GDPR, May 2018), benchmark regulation (BMR – Jan 2018), financial instruments regulations (MiFID II –  Jan 2018) and others on derivatives trading. She explained that data on GDPR, EU citizens had to be notified of data breaches and they also the right to be forgotten if they requested it i.e. to have all their data wiped out from a system  – .but that is in conflict with “know your customer” (KYC) and “anti-money laundering” (AML) laws, which require that financial data, is kept for seven years.  African exchanges have low liquidity and the costs of compliance keep going up, now estimated at 5-10% of turnover, even where there is no uptake of products or use of some of the new rules. Many of them have low liquidity and are heavily dependent on foreign investors to provide liquidity, but such investors are sensitive to any policy or taxes which can make them shift to other markets. But non-compliance could result in heavy penalties for companies.

Dr. Anthony Miller spoke of new opportunities from linking exchanges to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through new products. Last week Fiji launched a green bond at the London Stock Exchange while there was a gender bond floated in Asia to support women funded entrepreneurs. This is at a time that companies like Bloomberg are tracking the growth of green funds around the world, while many other investors are eliminating carbon investments, like coal, from their portfolios.

Block chain and bitcoin were top topics of discussion on day two of the BAFM. One talk was an explanation on the different aspects of block chain technology, which could offer African institutions the ability for Africa to leapfrog old hurdles. Sofie Blakstad spoke of using block chain to provide cheaper rural financing that is much cheaper than from commercial banks, and that the technology also enabled an unprecedented level of validation of the impacts of targeted funding programs such as micro-finance institutions  e.g. how ethical or green their funding programs are, by looking at data from the beneficiaries.

(Away from the BAFM, on the same day, Juliani, a popular Kenyan gospel musician launched Juliani “Hela” a loyalty point-based currency earned by customers on every purchase of an official Juliani event ticket, a T-shirt, or album).

David Wagemma spoke about M-Akiba which was the first mobile-traded government bond in the world that cost Kenyan investors just $30 and which took five minutes to sign up and pay for, all via their mobile phones.

Later in a panel on block-chain as a disruptive technology for markets, Abubakar Mayanja said that progressive regulators should have sandbox licensing so that regulation goes on even as new ideas are developed, while Reggie Middleton, said the 1,500 cryptocurrencies in existence could grow on their own without needing each other and they did not need to concern central bankers and regulators in Africa as they had nothing to do with currencies.

In their remarks to close the event, Geoffrey Odundo, CEO of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), thanked organizers, saying that the BAFM had trended for two days and he saw that even the Deputy President was still following the conversation, while Oscar Onyema, President of African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA)  said that this had been the best event in the BAFM series, with the next one to be hosted by the BRVM in Ivory Coast in April 2019 – who would be challenged to excel of the Nairobi event

Day two of the 7th Building African Financial Markets seminar was held at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel in Nairobi Kenya on April 20, 2018.

7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets – Day One

The 7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets seminar was officially opened by Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto with a joke that it was important that the organizers, who were the African Securities Exchange Association with the Nairobi Securities Exchange go out and clarify the difference “stock exchanges” and “stock theft” which is a big menace in Kenya. He then mentioned that securities exchanges provided assets protection and wealth creation and that some companies that the government had divested from like Kengen, Safaricom, and KCB were now among the leading institutions in Africa.

He asked the capital markets to help revive the agricultural sector and urged them to work on a commodities exchange and use block chain to create a ledger for collateral, and that he hoped the summit would redirect shareholders attention to the opportunities that reward vigilant, flexible and innovative investors.

One of the highlights of the day was a talk by Terry Adembesa who explained the complex processes and long steps that the Nairobi Securities Exchange has to go through to introduce new products and to persuade companies to list on the exchange. He explained how they had passed regulations to allow derivatives trading and short selling (which they plan to introduce later in 2018 for selected equities_ and to also allow market making by selected firms for stocks and bonds. They had made strides get pension and insurance funds to recognize their new products like Real Estate Investment Trust’s (REIT’s) and lobbied alongside Barclays to get Exchanged Traded Funds as an accepted class of equities that local funds could buy into. They had also lobbied the Kenya Revenue Authority to waive taxes on development REIT’s.

He added that African exchanges like Kenya’s have low volumes compared to Johannesburg and Mauritius; they mainly trade equities, with low participation from local investors (Trading at the Nairobi Exchange is 35% by local investors compared to 100% in many Asian markets) and later this meshed well with a nice presentation on the African Financial Markets Index by George Asante of Barclays Africa. It was a nice illustration of the maturity levels of stock exchanges in 17 countries that constitute 60% of GDP of Africa, with a startling finding that there was a significant cost borne by African countries by them not having effective capital markets.

Sallianne Taylor explained how Bloomberg  collects data and showcases African companies and exchanges to the wider world, facilitating financial leaders and exchanges to meet investors and financial journalists, while Nora Owako traced the evolution of Safaricom’s M-Pesa which has changed over the years to match the needs of consumers and now encompasses international remittances, savings, loans, utility payments, and merchant finance.

Another striking revelation was by David Waithaka of Cellulant during one of the afternoon panels on fintech as an enabler. The company, which was founded in Kenya, had run a platform in Nigeria that had connected 15 million farmers to 6,000 agro-dealers for farmers to get inputs and with commercial banks providing bridging finance to agro-dealers as they awaited reimbursements from the government. The program had a redemption rate of 59% and through it, farmer incomes improved from $700 to $1,800. It was later extended to rice and saw $2.4 million worth of commodity trades in two months. It is being rolled out in Liberia and event participants asked” Why not Kenya?”!

One of the shocks of the first day of the BAFM was from Joseph Tegbe of KPMG Nigeria who gave a talk on cybersecurity and warned that there was a real possibility that countries could use cyber attacks to target and destabilize the stock exchanges of other countries.

NSE Chairman Samuel Kimani thanked the BAFM gold sponsors – Bloomberg and Barclays, silver ones – CMA Kenya, Safaricom, Kengen, EFG Hermes, and others. The day ended with news during a panel on fintech as an enabler, that Barclays launched a green mortgage product, offering cheaper financing for energy-efficient homes

Day one of the 7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets seminar was held at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel in Nairobi Kenya on April 19, 2018. 

Visiting the Home of Tusker Beer and KBL

Last Friday, the management of Kenya Breweries (KBL) offered a media tour of their plant at Ruaraka, Nairobi. One of the oldest companies in Kenya, KBL is now part of East African Breweries (EABL) that is controlled by Diageo. The tour was a chance to walk see their production lines for different products like Tusker beers, Senator, and spirits like Kenya Cane. It was also a chance to meet and hear the top management of including Managing Director of Kenya Breweries, Jane Karuku, and heads of some divisions including bottled beer (Janice Kemoli), Spirits (Annjoy Muhoro) Sustainability (Jean Kiarie), and Innovations (Fred Otieno)

EABL has 2017 net sales of Kshs 70 billion (~$700 million) and Kshs 8.5 billion ($85 million) profit. Their financial year ended just before the election season in Kenya which saw nationwide general elections held on August 8 and a surprise repeat Presidential one on October 26. and the KBL Managing Director said that the prolonged elections period had resulted in a slow first half of their new year, including the Christmas season which is usually a peak. EABL gets 72% of its revenue from Kenya, 17% from Uganda, and 11% from Tanzania, and they also serve South Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Beer is still the cornerstone of the company, accounting for 80% of their revenue. This is led by Tusker, then Guinness (second by volume). Premium and lite beers are growing around the world and KBL has Tusker malt and Tusker Lite. There is also Senator Lager that was introduced in Kenya to combat the illicit alcohol trade. Senator is distributed by kegs and sold by pitcher or glass, And as part of a Kshs 15 billion Senator investments, a  new Senator line was commissioned in Kisumu, and MD Karuku said that the old plant has a great location to serve Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, is next to Lake Victoria, and it is modular in design which will allow more product lines to be added on in future. She said beer would continue to be the main part of their future as beer keeps up with GDP (growing at about 5% a year) and grows as young people reach the legal drinking age.

They also have spirits which contribute about 20% of the revenue of the company, and they control half the spirits market in Kenya. They have three segments of spirits; Reserve (luxury) in which they have  Singleton whiskey, Ciroc, and Tanqueray gin. Then they have a Premium segment that includes Johnnie Walker (Kenya was the fastest growing Scotch market for Diageo in 2017) & liquours (Baileys which is marketed for ladies). Finally, they have a Mainstream segment, which is 80% of their spirits business in Kenya. Their main products here are Kenya Cane, a forty-year-old sugar cane blend, and also Chrome vodka. The company invested Kshs 900 million in a line that will double their spirits production capability, and they aim to grow spirits contribution from 20% to 30% of revenue. They also invested in tamper-proof plastic seals to combat a wave of counterfeiting of popular alcohol brand products in Kenya and 50% of the alcohol purchased is illicit.

In life, tastes and consumer preferences are constantly shifting, and the company has an innovation division that tries to anticipate what consumers will like in the future.  New products rolled out include a citrus fusion variant of Kenya Cane, non-alcoholic Álvaro (which is being revamped), a craft premium beer (Hop House 13), Tusker Cider, Tusker draft beer )that is predominantly at all-inclusive hotels at the Kenya coast), and Zinga a new beer brand being piloted that is priced between Senator and their other bottled beer. With the new citrus fusion introduction, sales of Kenya Cane grew 46% last year, and overall innovation contributed 18% to turnover in Kenya and 33% in Tanzania.

Last year EABL contributed Kshs 52 billion in taxes (it was the third largest taxpayer after Safaricom and the Teachers Service Commission) equivalent to  4% of government revenue.   Besides with the Senator beer, KBL also works with the government to explain that importance of a stable tax regime and business environment, and have pushed a caution that alcohol is not price-sensitive to the sin-taxes that seem to be a favourite add-on in the national budget every year. Already, while a Tusker bottler has a recommended retail price of Kshs 140, Kshs 84 shillings will go out as tax, Kshs 23 goes to the distribution chain and the company gets Kshs 33.

For the long-term, EABL which contributes 0.8% to Kenya’s GDP plans to source 100% of their inputs locally by 2020 (up from the current 80%). They work with 31,000 farmers through their East Africa Maltings and pay Barley farmers Kshs 1.7 billion and sorghum ones Kshs 660 million every year, with the new Senator line expected to see 15,000 more farmers contracted, and 5,000 new Senator outlets. The company has 102 distributors (57 main ones, 45 senator ones) and 22,000 main outlets and 19,000 senator ones and they handle distribution to get products to customers at the lowest price possible.  The outlets have benefitted through getting access to management systems and electronic tax receipt (ETR) systems, and the next step is to harness all the data they have collected to enable better decision-making. Other initiatives of KBL include ‘Utado’ (which encourages responsible enjoyment of their products by advising consumers to take taxis, drink water, eat food) and Heshima (through which the recruited illicit alcohol sellers and trained and turned them into entrepreneurs and sellers of a legal affordable product)

A Tusker Beer remains part of the urban inflation index for tracking changes in the cost of living in Nairobi over time.

Kenya Tax Amnesty 2018

During a funding session for entrepreneurs last year it was revealed that Kenya has an amnesty for people to declare offshore wealth and repatriate this and that the country expected $3 billion in extra collections from this initiative in 2018. The Kenya government currently collects tax revenue of about $14 billion a year and there was a question on if the additional funding generated could become a source of competition for local private equity funds.

Tax amnesty

The actual notice was first published in July 2017 by the Commissioner of Domestic Taxes at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and read “The amnesty under Section 27B of the tax procedures act is meant to provide a one-off opportunity for Kenyan residents to declare assets and income and voluntarily repatriate the foreign-held assets to Kenya and invest in development of the country”

Applications, filings, and returns are to be made on the online KRA “itax” system before June 30, 2018. If funds are not brought in by that date, there is a five-year window (up to June 2023) to bring the funds back, but with an additional 10% of the amount repatriated as a penalty.

Married couples may file for the amnesty jointly, while assets and income that are in the name of minors can be declared by their parents or guardians. But anyone who had been assessed by KRA or was under investigation or audit over their income and assets prior to the amnesty is not eligible.