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JKIA personal items seizures up on tax purge

Travellers queue at passport control desks at the JKIA in Nairobi on August 1, 2020.

The number of undeclared personal effects seized from Kenyans re-entering the country through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has risen sharply as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) stepped its purge on tax evasion.

Personal effects such as clothing, footwear, handbags, paintings, human hair extensions and wigs, earrings dominate a list of confiscated items set to be auctioned next month at the airport’s customs warehouses — an indication of the high rate of failure to comply with reporting requirements.

“Passengers should familiarise themselves to the allowable concession of $500 (Sh54,900), the specific exemptions, types of goods prohibited and those that are restricted,” KRA Commissioner for Customs and Border Control Lilian Nyawanda said via email, adding some of the items come inas donations but not declared as such.

Bernard Kibiti, chief manager at the Nairobi Customs Station said the seized goods would be auctioned on September 29, 2021, if the owners failed to clear the tax due on them.

The taxman in 2016 set maximum duty collected on personal effects at Sh50,000 in a bid to speed up clearance of passengers at international airports and listed the items to be subjected to customs taxes at the arrival and departure terminals.

Under the guidelines, all the taxable items attract levies at rates determined by the value of money paid at a foreign country rather than factors such as quality, size or weight, the guidelines state.

The guidelines came in the wake of complaints lodged by passengers arriving at JKIA from Dubai and China, who said they were always subjected to extortionist rates unlike their counterparts from America and Europe.

Currently, passengers departing from Kenya are required to fill in a Temporary Importation Form-P45 to declare items being shipped overseas for repair and the accompanying tools and show the receipt during return as a declaration.

Also, items bought and carried for business promotional and commercial purposes need to be declared during departure for purposes of taxes on return.

Electronics like phones, video recorders and projectors bought while on a trip to Kenya and currency exceeding Sh1 million ($10,000) must also be declared at the customs before departure.

Passengers arriving in Kenya are also required to fill passenger declaration form stating the amount paid for each item, including the taxes.

Items intended for sale or use in a business, including those being brought back to Kenya after they are used commercially must be declared too.

At the arrival desk, a traveller is expected to declare newly acquired items whether they were bought, inherited or gifted and any other items bought exceeding the limits of duty-free shops.

“Duty-free shop articles sold in a customs duty-free shop are free only for the countries in which that shop is located. Therefore, if your acquired articles exceed your exemption and allowance, the articles you purchased in customs duty-free shop, whether in Kenya or abroad, will be subject to customs duty upon entering your destination country,” said the KRA.

Donations are also not exempt from taxes unless in situations where a Pro 1B document (mostly accompanying diplomatic goods) and a special letter from the Treasury are produced.

“This information is well documented on passenger declaration form (and) Customs handbook issued at the airport,” said Ms Nyawanda.

Some travellers, however, flouted these regulations resulting in the seizures of items by KRA officials at the JKIA.

The law allows Kenyans who have been residing in foreign countries to import personal effects and household goods duty-free on returning home on condition they provide proof of living abroad for at least two years.

The returning Kenyans must prove they are changing residence, according to the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004 and “not just been out of the country merely on temporary non-residential visit”, the KRA said in a past notice to Kenyan diaspora in the US.

The law further provides that those bringing in used personal effects and household items must have owned and used them for a minimum of one
year to qualify for tax exemption.

The goods should, however, be brought in within three months on arrival, although the KRA commissioner for customs can extend this to a year. – businessdailyafrica.com