The issue of MPs taxes has been a bone of contention ever since the constitution implementation process began. The constitution is clear all state officers, including MPs are required to pay their taxes. The provision as written in the constitution is one line, and provides little room for ambiguity or manipulation. Article 210 (3) of the constitution states “no law may exclude or authorize the exclusion of a State officer from payment of tax by reason of the office held by that State officer; or the nature of the work of the State officer.”
However almost 2 years since the promulgation of the constitution, in August 2010, several members of parliament still continue to flout the provision requiring them to pay taxes. Further both the Legislature, and the Executive have both tried to come up with ways for MPs to avoid complying with the Article 210 of the constitution.
The latest process through which Finance Minister has managed to ostensibly the clear tax arrears of the all three arms of government is astounding, and not in a good way. Earlier this week the Finance Minister, Njeru Githae, provided a 4.7 billion shilling grant to the three arms of government to settle tax arrears that Members of Parliament, the Judiciary, and military personnel owe the Kenya Revenue Authority since the coming in force of the constitution in August 2010.
It seems that irony of using government money to pay off taxes owed to the government by state officer is lost on both the Finance Minister, and the MPs that are allowing this to happen. One would assume the money wouldn’t even have to leave the Treasury, since it’s the Treasury’s coffers from which the grant is being paid out. I doubt however that the irony is lost taxpayer.
The fact that MPs with the help of the Executive have decided to operate as a law unto themselves when it comes to payment of tax as required by the constitution is reprehensible. Even worse is that they are using their privileged position as the ‘peoples representatives’ to manipulate laws and government funding to shield themselves from paying their taxes. What it is it that makes MPs feel justified to evade tax payment, or to use money that the ordinary tax payer has already paid to cover their taxes?