Court Grants KRA Powers to Access Taxpayers' Phones and Computers

  • A photo of models at a mock queue along Mombasa Road, Nairobi during the launch of a countrywide campaign by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to sensitise all taxpayers to adopt the online platform iTax to file returns in 2015.
    Models at a mock queue along Mombasa Road, Nairobi during the launch of a countrywide campaign by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to sensitise all taxpayers to adopt the online platform iTax to file returns in 2015.
    File
  • The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has been granted the power to access phone and computer records of individuals who are suspected not to have properly disclosed their tax returns.

    In a report by the Business Daily on Thursday, February 27, the court ruled that the tax agency had a free hand to compel the taxpayers to provide such details.

    This ruling was delivered by Justice Weldon Korir who dismissed opposition by activist Okiya Omtata who claimed that the move infringed on people's privacy.

    Justice Korir ruled that Omtatah had failed to prove how the law was intrusive to suspected tax evaders and others believed to be filing false returns.

    Justice Weldon Korir during a court appearance.
    Justice Weldon Korir during a court appearance.
    The Standard

    The provisions, he added, were only meant to be triggered in the event that the taxpayer failed to self assess tax payments or when evidence emerges of tax cheating.

    "There is sufficient and substantial reason for the limitation of the right (to privacy), as it is KRA’s mandate to ensure that all citizens abide by the laws relating to taxes and where they fail to do so, they are properly brought to justice with sufficient evidence to support the allegation.

    “It is obvious why the government collects taxes and why it is important that all taxpayers comply with tax laws,” Justice Korir was quoted.

    He added that citizens had a duty to submit correct information when declaring their tax returns in accordance with Section 56 of the Constitution, failure to which amounted to a criminal act.

    Omtatah had challenged Sections 57, 58 (2), 59 and 99 of the Tax Procedures Act (TPA), arguing that it infringed on taxpayers’ privacy by offering KRA full access to their dwellings, records, and gadgets like computers and mobile phones.

    According to the reports, KRA has been using various databases to pursue suspected tax cheats, including bank statements, import records, motor vehicle registration details, Kenya Power records, water bills and data from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCCA), which reveals individuals who own assets such as aircraft.

    Car registration details are also reportedly being used to smoke out individuals who are driving high-end vehicles but have little to show in terms of remitted taxes.

    Okiya Omtata in a court appearance on June 3, 2019.
    Okiya Omtata in a court appearance on June 3, 2019.
    Daily Nation