Joseph Omondi Oyomo

Many residents in Kapenguria town, which is located in West Pokot County, were taken aback when they learned that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) had demanded KES 1.74 million from a nearby tailor as a new turnover tax payment.

This happens at a time when officials from the KRA's Kitale branch are on the scene investigating allegations of abuse, demanding payments from business owners, threatening and harassing individuals, and other illegal activities.

Joseph Omondi Oyomo, who runs a sewing store known as "Elegance Textiles" and a modest and rising Pazuri Africa training facility where he instructs youngsters on sewing in Makutano town, is the latest victim who is being forced to pay a large sum of money as tax dues for the last three years.

From the small shop and the college, he is earning Sh 30,000 to Sh 35,000 every month, and sometimes Sh 40,000 during holiday months like November and December.

Omondi is not the only businessperson in the area who has voiced worries about being taken advantage of and dissatisfied by authority officials. These officers are pressuring Omondi to pay the inflated tax arrears since he rejected offering bribes to them. Other entrepreneurs in the region have voiced similar issues.

After being ordered to pay tax arrears of 7 million Kenyan shillings, yet another wholesaler dealer in the town of Makutano was pushed to liquidate his business this year.

An entrepreneur who asked to remain anonymous out of concern that she would become a victim of KRA's actions said that the corporation is now seeking KES 500,000 from her.

Omondi is in the business of making women's gowns, men's suits, and school uniforms, and he claims that his business is not large enough to pay KRA the whole amount.

Omondi maintains that officials from the KRA approached him and wanted a bribe, but he did not comply with their request.

He is now requesting that President William Ruto take action on the situation.

"KRA is being utilised as a means of intimidation in order to aggravate those who own small businesses. "It is difficult for us to make ends meet at this point," he remarked.

Omondi, who founded the business in 2021, asserted that the organisation in charge of administering the turnover tax system unintentionally left him out of it.

"I went to the KRA office in Kitale to find precisely where the issue was, but I was unable to get any assistance there. I went to the office in Eldoret, and the problem was fixed there; thus, I began making payments. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made up my mind to visit the Eldoret office. In May of 2023, I began satisfying the need to file the turnover tax return," he added.

On the other hand, he claims that only recently has the Kitale office asked to see his business documents for the previous three years.

"They requested all of my bank statements and M-Pesa transactions from the last three years. I went to the office in Kitale and explained the situation. They asked me to offer bribes to them in addition to paying the KES 166,000 debt that I was scheduled to pay back over the course of six months and to which I had already committed. I did not agree. They made modifications and sought a total of 292,000 Kenyan Shillings, but I refused to comply. According to him, they are now asking for 1.74 million Kenyan Shillings."

He said that the current state of the economy makes it impossible for him to catch up on his back taxes.

"Even if I go to the bank right now to ask for a loan of one million or 1.7 million Kenyan shillings, I won't be awarded either of those amounts. The challenging state of the economy has had a negative impact on my company. Even if I hand up all of my valuables as collateral, it won't. I do not get any financial support from anyone. Where do you suggest I begin?" He offered thoughts about it.

Ashiono Wendo, a second local businessman in Kapenguria town, has requested that the KRA educate locals on the newly implemented KRA processes.

"We need the engagement of the public. Even when they are no longer employed, some individuals are required to make monthly tax payments. Some people have very few stocks, yet they are nonetheless required to pay enormous sums of money. You are not allowed to pay more than what you bring in. They want KES 100,000 this month, then KES 150,000 the next, and finally KES 1 million later on.

"It has to have some basis in reality. We have no tolerance for threats made over the phone. They shouldn't try to take advantage of people's lack of knowledge in order to extort money from them," he added.

Sammy Abuyanza, who lives in Kapenguria, is quoted as saying that the KRA needs to be welcoming to people.

"At this time, if you notice members of the KRA, you have the ability to flee because of the terror. Although we are required to pay taxes, we need to be educated on how to properly file our forms. First, he suggested that the boda boda and the mama mboga get a grasp of the situation.

According to Brian Wekesa, an accounting officer at the Kitale KRA office, Omondi did not pay the tax arrears from 2018, and this is the reason why the sum grew to KES 1.74 million.

Wekesa further mentions that the calculation was carried out by taking into account the data that Omondi had provided to KRA.

"He might have raised objections using the proper channel by submitting an email to us," he added. "That would have been the appropriate way."


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