OPINION: Kenya’s transformation journey in tax administration is in the right direction

Several years ago, the one outstanding aspect that differentiated the public from the private sector was the level of customer satisfaction. The latter sector’s customer satisfaction was perceived to be better because the sector is largely profit-driven. 

However, gone now are the days when the public sector was perceived as dull, uncooperative and intimidating, among other factors that are a major drawback to good customer experience. If you will, the public sector is fast catching up with the private sector in ensuring that the satisfaction is of top-notch.

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It is worth appreciating that in the recent past, most tax administrators, KRA included, have changed tact in approaching tax administration for enhanced service delivery.

KRA has gradually dropped the enforcement approach and adopted facilitation of taxpayers as part of the broader transformation agenda. Various surveys conducted by KRA in the recent past indicate that the facilitation approach adopted by the agency is bearing fruits thereby rubberstamping it as the best approach.

In the financial year 2015/2016, for instance, KRA customer satisfaction index stood at 65 per cent. The index improved tremendously to 73.4 per cent in the 2018/2019 financial year survey, an indication that the customer-centric transformation journey that KRA has embarked on is bearing fruits.

Another survey, the Relational Health Audit conducted in 2019, aimed at examining the quality of KRA’s key stakeholder relationships, KRA recorded a 61.4 per cent score.

One might ask then, what exactly is the taxman doing to ensure the taxpayer, the taxman’s customer is satisfied? KRA has been committed to providing service to all taxpayers hence the theme, “Building Trust through Facilitation so as to foster Compliance with Tax and Customs Legislation”. We believe that when a taxpayer is well facilitated, there are better chances of improved compliance.

In order to achieve this, KRA has revised the service delivery framework by enhancing more geographic presence in the country. Contrary to some reports published in the dailies, KRA has a presence in all the 52 Huduma Centres, thereby giving the agency more footprints at the grassroots level.

For facilitation purposes, KRA believes it is its responsibility to be closer to its customers as opposed to taxpayers trying to get closer to KRA. For better service delivery, KRA has segmented taxpayers from large taxpayers to small and medium enterprises.

Within the Nairobi region, for instance, large and medium taxpayers are served from new establishments in Westlands and Upper Hill respectively.    

To further enhance accessibility throughout the country, KRA is also present at Government installations such as Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest). KRA’s geographical footprint is also enforced by the 39 Tax Service Offices spread across the country. All these offices are supported by an able team of more than 300 frontline staff. 

Apart from geographical presence, KRA has invested in state-of-the-art technologies all aimed at enhancing service delivery to taxpayers. Some years back, taxpayers would visit KRA offices in droves for various services like manual submission of tax returns, tax payment and application of tax compliance certificates among other services.

When iTax was implemented in 2014, all these processes were automated thereby saving taxpayers a lot of time and resources. This also enhanced KRA’s efficiency in delivering on those processes. 

KRA has also invested in other technological solutions such as the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, a platform for enhancing customer engagements, Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) which continues to revolutionize Customs and Border Control operations, the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) for monitoring transit cargo among others.   

Improvement of service delivery requires a multi-faceted 360-degree approach. To this regard, KRA has spread the transformation agenda to other disciplines such as the resolution of tax disputes.

Given that tax disputes are inevitable, KRA developed an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) framework in 2015 for resolving such disputes. Going by the applications that KRA has continued to receive for resolution through ADR, it is evident that the framework is fast gaining traction.     

For instance, when the ADR framework was operationalised in 2015, KRA received only two applications. In the subsequent financial year, KRA received 139 applications which grew to 155 in 2017/18 financial year. 

The 2018/19 saw the sharpest spike in ADR applications at 502. Of the 502 applications, 237 cases with revenue implications of Sh8.1 billion were successfully resolved. 

Talking of a multi-faced approach to transformation, who thought that the taxman could be on social media? KRA has extensively leveraged on digital platforms to enhance our service delivery to taxpayers. Apart from customer care, our digital platforms are a rich reservoir of tax-related materials for the taxpayers.     

That said, transformation of any nature is indeed a journey. It is not an event but a process. As such, KRA continues to review all feedback on service delivery for purposes of continued enhancement of our services to every customer that interacts with us. 

The writer is the Head of Marketing and Communication at KRA

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