Travelling to Kenya - KRA taxing personal items on arrival

Hi all,

I have family travelling to Nairobi in a few weeks time and they are concerned about the KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority) implementing new laws where visitors have their personal possessions taxed on arrival. This tax is applied to brand new/boxed items and used items too.

My family are attending a wedding, so they were planning on taking formal/party clothes as well as a few gifts for younger children - it is nothing expensive, but the $500 allowance for personal items doesn't cover anything more than an old smartphone(!). From reports and videos in the last few days, visitors arriving at Nairobi (NBO) have been harassed to pay the 'tax' for clothing, electronic devices, gifts, even toiletries. The enforcement staff decide what the value of the items are and they are not known to be reasonable or diplomatic.

I think when this gets communicated more widely, it will have a negative effect for tourism in Kenya. Here is an example article I found: https://techcabal.com/2023/11/01/kenyans-pushback-against-taxing-items-at-airports/

Has anyone experienced this, or have anything to add?

Comments

  • Westin
    Westin Posts: 5,884
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    Forumite
     so they were planning on taking formal/party clothes as well as a few gifts for younger children - it is nothing expensive, but the $500 allowance for personal items doesn't cover anything more than an old smartphone(!).”

    Is that $500 per traveller?

    Even if it isn’t, $500 seems adequate for “a few gifts for younger children” - and possibly even the wedding.

    The limit is clearly there to stop traders and people taking advantage of buying and reselling higher priced consumer goods within Kenya.  

    If you are being genuine with the items purchased and the gifting, I suspect you won’t have need to worry.
  • TELLIT01
    TELLIT01 Posts: 16,232
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper PPI Party Pooper
    Forumite
    Westin said:
     so they were planning on taking formal/party clothes as well as a few gifts for younger children - it is nothing expensive, but the $500 allowance for personal items doesn't cover anything more than an old smartphone(!).”

    Is that $500 per traveller?

    Even if it isn’t, $500 seems adequate for “a few gifts for younger children” - and possibly even the wedding.

    The limit is clearly there to stop traders and people taking advantage of buying and reselling higher priced consumer goods within Kenya.  

    If you are being genuine with the items purchased and the gifting, I suspect you won’t have need to worry.

    From what the OP is saying, the authorities in Kenya are basically looking at everything being brought into the country as a visitor and taxing it.  On that basis $500 is a tiny amount before the tax bites.  As the OP says, a smartphone can be more than that figure, and a decent camera will certainly be above that figure.
  • frankie
    frankie Posts: 842
    First Anniversary First Post
    Forumite
    There are many posts on this topic on the Trip Adviser Kenya board.
  • SamDude
    SamDude Posts: 411
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper Home Insurance Hacker!
    Forumite
    TELLIT01 said:

    From what the OP is saying, the authorities in Kenya are basically looking at everything being brought into the country as a visitor and taxing it.  On that basis $500 is a tiny amount before the tax bites.  As the OP says, a smartphone can be more than that figure, and a decent camera will certainly be above that figure.
    Yes this the point I'm making - it has been reported on TV news and online where 'over-eager' airport staff are pooling all your possessions you have and taxing it.

    A few examples that I've heard from extended family;
    Your personal clothes from M&S or Matalan 'worth' £150? - hardly designer, but they have accused people of bringing them to sell and therefore they are taxed.
    Your personal fragrances/aftershave/fancy toiletries 'worth' £100? - will be taxed.
    Apple iPhone 8 (or any other more recent/used smartphone)? A 3 year old Canon camera that you packed for safari photos? Personal? used? yes, but will be taxed.

    They don't tell you how your items will be valued - things are much more expensive in Kenya and they decide what their pricing is to determine the value of your items, so there is no way of knowing or planning for how much they will ask you to pay.

    You're already over the $500 even though they shouldn't have valued your personal items, but they don't differentiate between your used/personal items and any gifts. So if you have relatively inexpensive gifts for family - examples I know about include five/six sets of baby clothes, 4 boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, etc. It's not luxury goods from our perspective, but they have accused passengers of running a business ("why do you need more than one chocolate box"). Yep, the gifts end up getting taxed too.

    I'm just hoping that this policy backfires for the Kenyan government and they are forced to reverse this harassment policy.
  • eDicky
    eDicky Posts: 6,521
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
    Forumite
    SamDude said:
    TELLIT01 said:

    From what the OP is saying, the authorities in Kenya are basically looking at everything being brought into the country as a visitor and taxing it.  On that basis $500 is a tiny amount before the tax bites.  As the OP says, a smartphone can be more than that figure, and a decent camera will certainly be above that figure.

    Your personal fragrances/aftershave/fancy toiletries 'worth' £100? - will be taxed.
    Apple iPhone 8 (or any other more recent/used smartphone)? A 3 year old Canon camera that you packed for safari photos? Personal? used? yes, but will be taxed.

    No. You can be liable to pay duty on brand new gifts above the value permitted tax-free, but not on used personal items as a visitor to Kenya. This is stated by KRA themselves, so you can resist being charged, firmly but always in a polite manner. If necessary, request the attention of their supervisor.
    There are two likely reasons for the instances of harassment, or perhaps a combination of both. Customs agents may have been set a personal quota of revenue collection that they need to fulill as part of the national effort required by IMF, so they need to try it on as much as possible and maybe find tourists more timid targets than locals. Or perhaps they feel emboldened by the opportunity to make some quick backhanders, but this is more likely to succeed with Kenyan travelers.
    The 'over-eager' nature of the crackdown may well be have died down by the time of your travel, but such situations can always be encountered if you want holidays and weddings in exotic locations.
    Evolution, not revolution
  • SamDude said:
    Hi all,

    I have family travelling to Nairobi in a few weeks time and they are concerned about the KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority) implementing new laws where visitors have their personal possessions taxed on arrival. This tax is applied to brand new/boxed items and used items too.

    My family are attending a wedding, so they were planning on taking formal/party clothes as well as a few gifts for younger children - it is nothing expensive, but the $500 allowance for personal items doesn't cover anything more than an old smartphone(!). From reports and videos in the last few days, visitors arriving at Nairobi (NBO) have been harassed to pay the 'tax' for clothing, electronic devices, gifts, even toiletries. The enforcement staff decide what the value of the items are and they are not known to be reasonable or diplomatic.

    I think when this gets communicated more widely, it will have a negative effect for tourism in Kenya. Here is an example article I found: https://techcabal.com/2023/11/01/kenyans-pushback-against-taxing-items-at-airports/

    Has anyone experienced this, or have anything to add?
    I suspect someone somewhere has got the wrong end of the stick here - I don't think there are any new laws just the existing ones being enforced. And customs duties don't generally apply to tourists - these are rules primarily for Kenyan residents only. I suppose technically gifts may be different as they will remain in country but $500 per head is probably a reasonable amount for gifts in any case.

    I was in Kenya last month and nobody asked me anything about what I was carrying on the way in - there was no customs declaration form even that I remember. 

    I believe that the rules for Kenyan travellers may well be very different - judging by the amount of paperwork they were all carrying when leaving the country I suspect that they are very tight on who and what comes into the country for residents. For tourists, not so much. 
  • SamDude
    SamDude Posts: 411
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper Home Insurance Hacker!
    Forumite
    I suspect someone somewhere has got the wrong end of the stick here - I don't think there are any new laws just the existing ones being enforced. And customs duties don't generally apply to tourists - these are rules primarily for Kenyan residents only. I suppose technically gifts may be different as they will remain in country but $500 per head is probably a reasonable amount for gifts in any case.

    I was in Kenya last month and nobody asked me anything about what I was carrying on the way in - there was no customs declaration form even that I remember. 

    I believe that the rules for Kenyan travellers may well be very different - judging by the amount of paperwork they were all carrying when leaving the country I suspect that they are very tight on who and what comes into the country for residents. For tourists, not so much. 

    This has been making the news in the last week, so whilst it is not a new law (and previous trips have been straightforward), now they are inspecting every* passenger and all their luggage (*unless you are a diplomat or VIP, whatever the criteria for that is).
    It would be good for anyone who is travelling during this period to share their experience... 
  • eDicky
    eDicky Posts: 6,521
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
    Forumite
    SamDude said:
    I suspect someone somewhere has got the wrong end of the stick here - I don't think there are any new laws just the existing ones being enforced. And customs duties don't generally apply to tourists - these are rules primarily for Kenyan residents only. I suppose technically gifts may be different as they will remain in country but $500 per head is probably a reasonable amount for gifts in any case.

    I was in Kenya last month and nobody asked me anything about what I was carrying on the way in - there was no customs declaration form even that I remember. 

    I believe that the rules for Kenyan travellers may well be very different - judging by the amount of paperwork they were all carrying when leaving the country I suspect that they are very tight on who and what comes into the country for residents. For tourists, not so much. 

    This has been making the news in the last week

    Where is this news to be seen?
    Luggage inspection of every arriving passenger will entail huge delay on arrival.
    This was published yesterday:

    Evolution, not revolution
  • eDicky said:
    SamDude said:
    I suspect someone somewhere has got the wrong end of the stick here - I don't think there are any new laws just the existing ones being enforced. And customs duties don't generally apply to tourists - these are rules primarily for Kenyan residents only. I suppose technically gifts may be different as they will remain in country but $500 per head is probably a reasonable amount for gifts in any case.

    I was in Kenya last month and nobody asked me anything about what I was carrying on the way in - there was no customs declaration form even that I remember. 

    I believe that the rules for Kenyan travellers may well be very different - judging by the amount of paperwork they were all carrying when leaving the country I suspect that they are very tight on who and what comes into the country for residents. For tourists, not so much. 

    This has been making the news in the last week

    Where is this news to be seen?
    Luggage inspection of every arriving passenger will entail huge delay on arrival.
    This was published yesterday:

    And when you look at it then it's pretty clear that someone somewhere is mis-reporting or mis-stating what the law is - because the FAQs strongly hints at the fact that while they say 'all passengers' what they mean is 'all residents of Kenya' 

    They do scan all the luggage on the way in and out of the airport so I guess it's not too difficult for them to add 'flag anything that looks expensive and hasn't been declared' to the list of things to check but again the law only applies to people who reside in Kenya.
  • SamDude
    SamDude Posts: 411
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper Home Insurance Hacker!
    Forumite
    Lots of the news I've heard has been first-hand experience of family that are Kenyan residents returning to Nairobi and also family from Australia and Canada visiting there in the last couple of weeks.

    I searched Youtube for "NBO KRA" and these are the first few videos of local news channels and individuals:
    I'm not able to vouch for the reputation of the news channels (I wouldn't know if they are the equivalent of the BBC News or GB News) but they do all corroborate the poor communication and confused implementation of this law, and that the law being enforced is not solely for Kenyan residents (suspected of importing valuable items) but tourists too.
Meet your Ambassadors

Categories

  • All Categories
  • 341.6K Banking & Borrowing
  • 249.7K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449.1K Spending & Discounts
  • 233.5K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 605.8K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 172.3K Life & Family
  • 246.6K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.8K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards