It is emerging that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) have been illegally taxing teachers with disabilities for the last two months.
Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers (KUSNET) Secretary-General James Torome yesterday told The Standard that he had received complaints from his members that they were being taxed despite meeting the requirements for exemption.
“But most of our teachers are directing their anger to the wrong person. TSC does not exempt teachers from paying taxes. The problem we are having is that KRA is issuing the certificate of exemption for five years, which needs to be renewed after the expiry date and in most cases, some of our teachers forget to renew while some renew it very late,” said Mr Torome.
He said the National Assembly needs to amend or repeal the KRA Act so that the certificate does not expire.
Torome said they have taken the issue to the Labour and Education Committees in the National Assembly to ensure MPs come up with an amendment Bill on the KRA Act.
EALA MP David Sankok said people with disabilities (PWDs) are exempted from paying Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to a certain limit and not Value Added Tax. He said the exemption on PAYE is up to Sh150,000.
“There are others who are rich, like an MP earning a million shillings, and cannot be exempted. The PWD Act is clear that exemption on PAYE is up to Sh150,000 and anything above that is taxed like any other Kenyan,” he said.
Sankok also revealed that PWDs are exempted from paying import duty on vehicles but are allowed to import a single vehicle in four years to restrict cartels from using them to import vehicles without paying taxes.
Nelson Shavalegi, a disabled teacher at Senende Primary School in Vihiga County, has been paying taxes for the last 10 years.
Shavalegi says his efforts to get a certificate of exemption have been futile.
“I became disabled a decade ago after developing movement problems with my legs. I have tried to apply for the certificate of exemption after filling in the required documents even after being approved disabled, but all has been futile. KRA and TSC have been deducting the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) levy from me,” said Shavalegi.
The tutor, however, says that after following up with TSC, he was instructed to visit a health facility for medical assessment before applying for the certificate of exemption.
“It was approved that I am disabled and I applied for the certificate in December this year. I am waiting to receive the certificate from Huduma Centre by January next year. I am hopeful that my application will sail through this time,” said Shavalegi.
Knut Secretary-General Collins Oyuu said some disabled teachers had complained of being taxed, but his office was waiting for them to formalise the issue for him to take action.
Some teachers who sought anonymity confirmed that they were removed from Kenya Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) and Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) to KUSNET without their consent, adding that they do not know where to channel their tax complaint to.
However, Torome said teachers have a right to join any union.
Furthermore, he said some teachers refused to join either union only to show up after the unions signed an attractive Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“There are some members who are not financing their unions or they have not subscribed to any of the unions, and after a certain union has signed a CBA, they want to benefit. Therefore, what happens is that the unions deduct an urgency fee from teachers, which is different from union fee and that is where many are complaining but teachers cannot be removed from any unions,” said Torome.
Johnston Wabuti, KUPPET chair for Kakamega County, denied claims that disabled teachers were being taxed and even removed from their unions without consent.
Wabuti said the claims were unfounded, adding that his union has not removed any disabled teacher from its list or carried out any deductions that tutors are exempted from paying.
“We know People Living with Disability are exempted from some taxes like medical assessment fees and other deductions, and we are adhering to it. There is no way we can deduct what is not required. We have their representative, and he sits in every meeting and deliberations we make. He is there to represent the interests of disabled teachers,” said Wabuti.