Where are my stamps? Angry Water Bottlers Association chairperson accuses KRA of negligence
Kabogo, who runs Victoria Splash and Spring bottling company, says KRA officials have been frustrating his efforts to get the stamps, eventually forcing him to close down.
"I am saddened by the deliberate mismanagement of the EGMS system by KRA staff responsible for approving the issuance of stamps at the various tax stations. Whenever manufacturers need stamps for their plants to continue producing, tax assessment warnings are issued, most of which are not related to excise duty but other obligations. Therefore, many SMEs and MSMEs have been forced to halt operations, with some even closing the business altogether," Kabogo stated.
"My particular case is very discouraging for business. I applied for stamps on August 19, 2022, having exhausted 75% of the stamps earlier issued. On following up, we were asked to pay some late filing penalties that were pending in the system. We entered into a plan to pay immediately. We cleared this in December 2022," he added.
After clearing the penalties, Kabogo says that he was issued with new demands in December 2022. An agreement was reached with the taxman that any discrepancy would be settled between January and February 2023, paving way for the issuance of the stamps, according to Kabogo.
KRA relationship officer
According to Kabogo, Mr Felix Simiyu, a KRA relationship officer, was assigned to handle his issue and facilitate stamp approval to the businessman. However, Kabogo states that the officer started taking him in circles, claiming that his boss, Mr Lazarus Cheruiyot, was the only one who could approve the stamps, and was not 'around'.
"I emailed Mr Felix Simiyu, the relationship officer assigned to my account, to facilitate my stamp approval. When I followed up with a call, he would always reference that "boss" was not around, and as soon as he came, he would approve. Till now, the "boss," Mr Lazarus Cheruiyot, has not seen the need to come to the office or facilitate me. Such an approval can be done through any browser, as used to happen during lockdowns. It is not a system access issue," Kabogo wrote.
Kabogo says that he has not been running his business in December and January, which has seen his company lose a great deal of business in the two months.
"KRA Busia will not receive excise duty tax for December and January 2023 since I have not been in operation. Like the president, I wondered why Kenya consumes fewer stamps than Uganda and Tanzania, which have much smaller economies, and this is one of the reasons why. There are people who don't lose sales or customers because of this bureaucracy.
"They get fake stamps that are easily available. Let no one wonder why 80% of the market is controlled by illicit. EGMS' approval should not take four months. Business continuity should not be at the mercy of a few irresponsible officers with no conscience for welfare or business. I hope the "boss" returns soon to allow my family to trade and make a living. It hurts to lose customers through such sabotage," he adds.
When contacted by People Daily Digital for a comment on the allegation, Simiyu claimed that he had not seen Kabogo’s complaint. "I have not seen the statement," Simiyu said on phone.
KRA is the only agency mandated with the issuance of excise stamps. Excise stamps for water bottlers go for Ksh0.50 per stamp.
Following the recent tax amendments through the Finance Act 2020, all persons in the business of bottling (including through refilling) or packaging water are required to obtain an excise license from KRA as a prerequisite for charging and remitting excise duty.
They are also required to affix excise stamps on each bottle that has been refilled or packaged.