By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) announced that in accordance with the constitution MPs will now be required to pay taxes on their income i.e. just like every other income earning Kenyan. Moreover KRA wants the MPs taxes back-dated to August 2010, the month in which the constitution promulgated, and has threatened to penalise any member of parliament who fails to pay taxes.
The move is a win for the Kenyan public who have campaigned numerous times for the members of parliament, that they have elected to pay taxes. However, the implementation of the constitutional requirement that MPs pay taxes has sparked opposition from the members of parliament, in effect dismissing the wishes of the electorate. What happened to sovereignty of the people?
MP Olago Alouch, Kisumu Town West, has said if the negotiations with the KRA fail MPs could affect proposals in the Akiwumi report, which would allow MPs to increase their basic salary to Kshs1.2 million if adopted.
However there are a few constitutional hurdles that would invalidate this option:
First, the new constitution removes from MPs the power to set or review their salary or benefits and puts that decision on the hands of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission [Article 230 (4) (a)]. This means MPs can no longer raise their salaries unilaterally as in the old dispensation. The commission is independent so parliament’s ability to influence it is limited. Increasing their salary through the adoption of a report would probably be unconstitutional given that this is no longer under the mandate of parliament.
Second, the Article 210 (3) states no law may exclude or authorize the exclusion of a State officer from payment of tax. This is pretty clear any law that allows state officers not to pay tax is in contravention with the constitution, and would be invalidated by virtue of this contravention.
It would seem in bad faith for the MPs to act increase their salaries so that increase would offset the cost of the taxes. Let them join the rest of hardworking Kenyans and lets make sure our katiba mpya is adhered to.