BY DAVID WANJALA
President Uhuru Kenyatta has today launched a Tax Appeals Tribunal, which will hear appeals filed against any tax decision made by the commissioner of Kenya Revenue Authority.
The tribunal, according to the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, consists of a chairperson and not less than 15, but not more than 20 other members, all of whom are advocates of the High Court.
The inaugural tribunal’s workload is already cut out, coming in the background of heightened revenue collection in a dwindling economy and already existing tax dispute courses in courts of law pitting the taxman against big businesses.
The President, while chastising the Judiciary for case backlogs that have crippled operations of KRA and affected targets in revenue collection and complicated running of businesses for investors, asked the incoming tribunal for a progress report in three months.
“The majority of these cases have been pending for more than two years, representing a significant bottleneck in the tax administration process. I call on the Judiciary … to strive to determine expeditiously tax disputes without fear or favour. Both the taxpayer and the tax authority deserve quick and efficient hearings so as to know the outcome of their cases within the shortest time possible. We now have a new Tax Appeals Tribunal and I want a report from you within three months of what you have done to expedite those cases.
The tough-talking Kenyatta warned the new commissioners that they would be fired if they failed to deliver in their first three months.
The chairperson of the tribunal, who must be qualified to be appointed as a judge of the High Court, shall hold office for a non-renewable term of five years. All other members will be eligible for re-appointment for one further term of three years.
According to the Act creating the Tribunal, a person who disputes the decision of the Commissioner on any matter arising under the provisions of any tax law may appeal to the Tribunal upon giving notice in writing and a non-refundable fee of Sh20, 000. The notice shall be submitted to the Tribunal within 30 days upon receipt of the decision of the Commissioner.
The appellant shall also, within fourteen days from the date of filing the notice of appeal, submit enough copies of a memorandum of appeal, statements of facts and the tax decision. He or she will also be required to serve a copy of the appeal on the Commissioner within two days after serving the tribunal who in turn shall, within 30 days after being served submit to the Tribunal enough copies of a statement of facts including the reasons for the tax decision and any other necessary documents for review by the Tribunal. The Commissioner will be required to serve the same to the appellant
The Tribunal shall hear and determine an appeal within 90 days from the date the appeal is filled with it.
The Secretary to the Tribunal shall advise all parties in writing of the time and place of the hearing at least fourteen days before the commencement of hearing and the evidence may be given orally or through affidavits or in such manner as the Tribunal may direct. It may also call any person to give evidence including production of any document. It may also make an order staying or otherwise affecting the operation or implementation of the decision under review for the purposes of securing the effectiveness of the proceeding and determination of the appeal.
The parties may, at any stage during proceedings, apply to the Tribunal to be allowed to settle the matter out of the Tribunal, and the Tribunal shall grant the request under such conditions as it may impose. They also shall report to the Tribunal the outcome of settlement of the matter outside the Tribunal.
Section 29 of the Act states that the decision of the Tribunal shall be by majority vote of the members present, and the Chairperson shall have a casting vote in addition to his deliberative vote. The Tribunal shall make a decision in writing either affirming the decision under review, or varying it or setting it aside and make a decision in substitution for the decision so set aside or refer the matter to the Commissioner for reconsideration in accordance with any directions or recommendations of the Tribunal.
A party to proceedings before the Tribunal may, within thirty days after being notified of the decision appeal to the High Court, and serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the other party.