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November 22, 2023
2023-1938

Kenya Revenue Authority unveils guidelines for customs clearance at port of entry for passengers

  • The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has strengthened its enforcement efforts and implemented stricter measures at different entry points.
  • Under the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004 (EACCMA), passengers' baggage and personal effects are generally exempt from customs duty, subject to conditions specified in the 5th Schedule of the EACCMA.
  • The KRA has issued a Public Notice dated 2 November 2023 titled “Clearance at Passenger Terminal,” related to critical aspects on customs clearance.

Introduction

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) recently strengthened its enforcement efforts and implemented stricter measures at different entry points to bolster revenue collection, close existing loopholes, and prevent the entry of prohibited items. These measures involve utilizing advanced technology and conducting thorough physical inspections to screen and authenticate baggage and imported goods. However, there has been public criticism regarding the perceived excessiveness of these measures, with concerns raised about potential harassment and the resulting inconvenience for individuals arriving at or departing from Kenya.

Law on customs clearance of persons

The East African Community Customs Management Act 2004 (EACCMA) is the governing authority on customs and border control in Kenya. Under this law, passengers' baggage and personal effects are generally exempt from customs duty, subject to conditions specified in the 5th Schedule of the EACCMA.

Passengers arriving in Kenya are categorized into different groups, and each category is entitled to different exemptions. These categories and their respective exemptions are as follows:

Category A passengers

This category includes individuals who on first arrival intend to change their residence to Kenya, such as aid agencies, missionaries, and military personnel. Diplomats, students, and residents who have lived outside Kenya for a specific prescribed period under Part A and B of EACCMA also fall into this category. Exemptions for this category include wearing apparel, personal and household effects for personal or household use, and one motor vehicle owned and used outside the partner states for at least 12 months.

Category B passengers

This category consists of tourists and visitors staying in Kenya for up to three months. These individuals are entitled to exemptions for non-consumable goods for personal use during their visit that will be leaving with them at the end of their visit, as well as consumable provisions and non-alcoholic beverages in quantities consistent with their visit intentions.

Category C passengers

This category includes Kenyan residents and passengers not covered in Category A or B. They are entitled to exemptions for wearing apparel and personal and household effects for their personal or household use.

Passengers, regardless of category, are not required to pay duty on specific consumable items within specified limits, such as spirits (up to one liter), wine (up to two liters), perfumes (up to a quarter liter), and tobacco products (up to 250 grams) for passengers aged 18 years and above.

It is important to note that the value of exempted goods is restricted to US$500, and any goods exceeding this value are subject to duty, despite the exemption.

It is also important to note that certain goods, such as fabrics in piece, alcoholic beverages, perfumes, spirits, and tobacco products exceeding the specified exempted amounts, as well as trade goods intended for sale or disposal, do not enjoy exempt status.

KRA notice

The KRA issued a Public Notice on 2 November 2023 titled "Clearance at Passenger Terminals." This notice comes amidst growing public outcry and criticism from certain leaders regarding supposed harsh tax measures targeting incoming Kenyans imposed by the Revenue Authority.

In the notice, the KRA issued the following guidelines:

  1. Clearance of personal items/effects: All used personal items/effects are exempt from custom duties.
  2. Clearance of new items: Items acquired outside the country for personal and/or household use valued at up to US$500 for each traveler are exempted from import duties. The KRA also noted that the US$500 limitation is restrictive and stated that steps are underway to review the limit upwards.
  3. Determination of duties: Where the imported good are supposed to be subjected to custom duty, the passenger is required to self-declare the actual price of the item(s). The various duties to be paid will be based on the purchase price declared by the passenger/traveler. All passengers are therefore required to declare their specific items in the Passenger Declaration Form (F88) before arriving in Kenya and presenting it to the Custom official at the point of entry. The passenger/traveler also has the right to question the assessed customs duty and may seek an explanation from the Customs Officer.
  4. Payment of duties: The custom duty will be payable at appointed banks located within the terminal or through mobile banking platform after electronic payment slips have been generated by the Customs Officer.

Next steps

Passengers should familiarize themselves with the laws and guidelines related to customs clearance to determine whether the items they are carrying are prohibited, restricted, or subject to import duties. The KRA has published a document called "Passenger-Terminals-FAQs.pdf" (accessible through this hyperlink Passenger-Terminals-FAQs.pdf (kra.go.ke). This document provides more detailed information and answers frequently asked questions.

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For additional information with respect to this Alert, please contact the following:

Ernst & Young (Kenya)

Published by NTD's Tax Technical Knowledge Services group; Carolyn Wright, legal editor

 
 

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