By Grace Wandera
For many governments, filing the income tax return is not just a legal requirement, but also an act of patriotism. Regardless of where one resides, taxation is one common identifier for citizens across varied countries. It, therefore, makes sense that with only one month to June, more taxpayers will be filing their annual tax returns, while more employers will issue out p9 forms.
Citizens are expected to comply with their tax obligations on income earned during a given Financial Year (FY) period, and account for the same by filing their tax returns. As we approach the month of June, we call upon taxpayers to file their returns and avoid penalties.
According to renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, income tax remains the hardest thing to understand in the world. Einsten’s thoughts resonate well with majority of taxpayers; American Columnist ‘Ann Landers’ echoed these thoughts through the quote: “today, it takes more brains and effort to make out the income-tax form than it does to make the income.” Well, taxpayers are quite often thankful for their incomes, especially at the point where they face tax deductions.
While as a taxpayer, your heart may skip a bit when you check your tax deductions, it is still noble to pay your taxes. Tax collection generates public revenues that finance investments in human capital, infrastructure, and the provision of services for citizens and businesses. American jurist and legal scholar, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, describes taxes as “what we pay for a civilized society”, a quote, which to date, is inscribed on the entrance to The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington DC.
In Kenya, during this period (2021/22) of filing tax returns, an 18% filing growth was recorded by March 30, compared to last year, same period. Filing of tax returns can be viewed as a moral and social duty of every responsible citizen. In the Kenyan context, the law provides that all Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) PIN holders file tax return. Kenya operates a self-assessment tax regime where every person is required to assess himself, or herself, and declare the income earned during the year and pay any taxes due.
To drive compliance, tax agencies implement various initiatives to support their customers in complying with their return filing obligations. Communication and awareness campaigns drive compliance. Taxpayers are more likely to comply with their obligations, when they know what they are required to do.
At KRA, communication and awareness commenced in early January 2023 through direct marketing, for individual and corporate taxpayers. The agency estimates that by June 30, 6 million taxpayers will have filed their 2022 income tax returns thanks to continues awareness on return filing which it creates by sharing “how-to-file guides”. This is a great increase from the 5.5 million total returns filed for the previous year of income 2021.
The taxman also collaborates with strategic stakeholders such as business member organizations, tertiary institutions of learning, professional bodies and religious organizations among others, to implement filing support for their members. Through this collaboration, KRA tailors filing support activities to meet the unique needs of the members.
Additionally, tax agencies offer onsite and offsite filing support that enables taxpayers to file returns at their convenience. For KRA, this is executed across all Tax Service Offices and Huduma centres. We also partner with county and local governments to implement Ushuru mashinani and mobile tax office filing support to taxpayers at the grassroots. Further, our staff offer remote filing support through social media and the contact centre.
The return filing period for 2022 commenced in January 2023 and will close at the end of June 2023. So with June fast approaching, have you filed your tax return? We encourage you to do so today.
Writer is the Deputy Commissioner, marketing and communication at Kenya Revenue Authority