Kenyans Stare at More Taxes as Treasury Proposes to Increase Vat to 18%

Nairobi — Kenyans will soon pay more in taxes as the National Treasury is proposing to increase the value-added tax (VAT) on products and services to 18 percent from the current 16 percent.

Treasury says in its latest Draft Medium-term Debt Strategy for the periods 2024/35 and 2026/27.

It argues that Kenya’s VAT percentage of 16 percent is much lower in comparison to neighboring countries in the East African Community.

To achieve his post-election promises, President William Ruto has been looking to raise additional taxes to finance his bottom-up economic agenda of lifting more Kenyans out of poverty.

“Currently, VAT rate in Kenya is among the lowest within the EAC members States. The EAC Common Market Protocol foresees harmonisation of taxes before EAC Monetary Union,” Treasury says in the draft document.

“However, studies have shown that low VAT rates accompanied with rationalized exemptions promote compliance and improve revenues collections,” it adds.

“In this respect, the Government will review the VAT rates as well VAT exemptions and zero rating.”

If the proposal sails through, the Kenya Kwanza administration is also planning to increase excise duty on spirits and other products with higher alcohol content to discourage consumption.

“This will be informed by quantitative analysis to determine the optimal tax rate that will be applicable to each alcoholic product,” Treasury says.

Users of tobacco products will not be spared either, as the state seeks to harmonize the excise duty rate for the current categories of filtered cigarettes, non-filtered cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

“Given the negative health externalities of these products, the rates will be based on the extent of the externalities as well as recommendations of the ongoing EAC partner states study.”

Sugar-based non-alcoholic beverages taxes will also be reviewed under the proposed tax regime as part of the government’s mission to prevent obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Treasury is calling on Kenyans to submit their recommendations on the proposals by October 6, 2023.


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