KRA brags and explains how it broke into Kenyans’ private information files for details

In a brazen show of impunity that is likely to result in a court case from a human rights body or an activist such as Okiya Omutata, the Kenya Revenue Authority has announced that it managed to expand the tax bracket and boasted of the tactics they used which reeked of multiple privacy violations. According to the tax body, some 5,090 landlords have been recruited in just the half-year period ending last December.

The Kenya Revenue Authority has singled out data on persons applying for electricity as the major source of information that has led to increased recruitment of landlords into the tax net in recent years.

The taxman says access to the metering database at Kenya Power  has proved effective in nabbing property developers who have been evading taxes, helping recoup millions of shillings in accrued revenue.

The link between the KRA system and third-parties such as Kenya Power and commercial banks has helped rope 76,025 landlords into the tax net over the last two and a half years, the agency says.

It was further revealed that the privacy invasion doesn’t simply end with accessing Kenya Power’s information but that the taxman also uses data from commercial lenders, which are required to record Personal Identification Number (PIN) certificates of new clients as part of the Know Your Customer (KYC) checklist, to track tax cheats.

“The use of third party data has been effective in the recruitment of new landlords,” KRA’s commissioner for domestic taxes Rispah Simiyu chest thumped as she basked in the glory of their controversial findings.

“For example, in the financial year 2019/2020, Kenya Revenue Authority used data obtained from Kenya Power & Lighting Company to recruit 5,542 landlords with a collection of rental income of Sh54 million.” She bragged.

The number of landlords roped into the tax net in the year ended June 2021 fell to 34,853 from a record 36,082 property owners in the prior year, the KRA says.

Claiming a loophole in the law, it’s argued that changes to Tax Procedures Act 2015 through the Finance Act 2016 enabled KRA to access electronic data on taxpayers from third parties without seeking a court order.

These include Kenya Power metering records, bank statements, import records, motor vehicle registration details, water bills and data from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCCA).

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    Written by Joshua Wanga

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