November 22, 2023
Kenya Revenue Authority unveils guidelines for customs clearance at port of entry for passengers
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.
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:
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.
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