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The Approaches to Resolution of Tax Disputes in Kenya

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By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Sustainable Development Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), The African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021*

The tax law in Kenya envisages four approaches and levels of resolving tax disputes, namely, the administrative decision, quasi-judicial process involving tax Appeals Tribunal (TAT), formal judicial process involving High Court as court of first instance or appeal from the Tribunal and appeal to Court of Appeal and alternative dispute resolution on agreement of parties at administrative level or as an out of tribunal/court dispute settlement procedure. The relevant laws are the Tax Procedures Act, 2015, Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, 2013, and the relevant Tax Laws in Kenya. Parties can opt for Alternative Dispute Resolution of tax disputes at any level of the dispute under KRA Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Framework.

Tax Objection and Objection Decision 

The Tax Procedures Act requires that a taxpayer who wishes to dispute a tax decision at first instance lodges an objection with Commissioner against the tax decision within 30 days of notification under section 51 before proceeding to take any steps envisaged under any other written law. Any such notice of objection must state the precise grounds of objection, the amendments required to be made to correct the decision, and the reasons for the amendments. Further, the tax payer must confirm payment of the entire amount of tax due under the assessment that is not in dispute. If the Commissioner concludes that these conditions have not been met, she is to immediately notify the taxpayer in writing that the objection has not been validly lodged. The Commissioner has sixty (60) days to make an objection decision from the date the taxpayer lodged the notice of the objection failing which the objection is considered to be allowed.

The taxpayer may apply in writing to the Commissioner for an extension of time to lodge a notice of objection. The Commissioner has discretion to allow an application for the extension of time to file a notice of objection if the taxpayer was prevented from lodging the notice of objection within the prescribed period because of an absence from Kenya, sickness or other reasonable cause and the taxpayer did not unreasonably delay in lodging the notice of objection. Once a notice of objection has been validly lodged within time, the Commissioner is bound to consider the objection and decide either to allow the objection in whole or in part, or disallow it. The Commissioner’s decision is referred to as an “objection decision” and includes a statement of findings on the material facts and the reasons for the decision.  In any case, the Commissioner is required to notify in writing the taxpayer of the objection decision and take all necessary steps to give effect to the decision, including, in the case of an objection to an assessment, making an amended assessment.

Appeal to the Tax Appeals Tribunal

Section 52 of the Tax Procedures Act gives a person who is dissatisfied with an appealable decision the discretion to appeal the decision to the Tribunal in accordance with the provisions of the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, 2013. As per the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, whether or not a decision is appealable to the tax tribunal depends on the relevant tax law on case to case basis. In turn, a person who disputes the decision of the Commissioner on any matter arising under the provisions of any tax law may upon giving notice in writing to the Commissioner, appeal to the Tribunal. However, a notice of appeal to the Tribunal relating to an assessment is only valid if the taxpayer has paid the tax not in dispute or entered into an arrangement with the Commissioner to pay the tax not in dispute under the assessment at the time of lodging the notice. Further, the person appealing is required to pay a non-refundable fee of twenty thousand shillings to the tribunal.

As a matter of fact, while the proceedings of the Tribunal are of a judicial nature, the Civil Procedure rules have been specifically excluded. The provisions of the Civil Procedure Act (Cap. 21) are expressly excluded from application to the proceedings of the Tribunal meaning aspects such as Court-Annexed Mediation are not allowable. However, the Act allows parties to an appeal before the Tribunal to apply, in writing, to the Tribunal to settle the dispute out of the Tribunal. In such a case, the time taken to resolve or conclude the settlement out of the Tribunal is to be excluded when calculating the period contemplated for resolution of Appeals under the Act. In particular, the Tribunal is bound to hear and determine an appeal within ninety days from the date the appeal is filed with the Tribunal.

Appeal to the High Court

If a party to proceedings before the Tribunal is dissatisfied with the decision of the Tribunal in relation to an appealable decision may, they are entitled within thirty days of being notified of the decision or within such further period as the High Court may allow, to appeal the decision to the High Court in accordance with the provisions of the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, 2013. The High Court is to hear such appeals in accordance with rules to be issued by the Chief Justice.

Essentially, appeal to the High Court marks the formal start of tax litigation in Kenya and tax cases usually take three forms, namely, appeals from decisions of the Tax Appeals Tribunal (TAT), judicial review cases challenging abuse of process or other administrative excesses by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and constitution petitions by aggrieved tax payer(s) alleging infringement of constitutional rights. In an appeal by a taxpayer to the Tribunal, High Court (or Court of Appeal) in relation to an appealable decision, the taxpayer is only permitted to rely on the grounds stated in the objection to which the decision relates unless the Tribunal or Court allows the person to add new grounds.

Appeals to Court of Appeal

In event any party to tax litigation proceedings before the High Court is dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court in relation to an appealable decision, they may in thirty (30) days of being notified of the decision or within such further period as the Court of Appeal may allow, appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. Both KRA and tax payers have resorted to appeals to Court of Appeal to challenge several decisions of the High Court. The Tax Procedures Act is clear that any appeal to the decision of the Tax Tribunal to the High Court or to decision of the High Court to the Court of Appeal shall be on a question of law only.

Settlement of Tax Disputes Out of Court or Tribunal

The law provides that where a Court or the Tribunal permits the parties to settle a dispute out of Court or the Tribunal, as the case may be, the parties are to make the settlement within ninety days from the date the Court or the Tribunal permits the settlement. In that regard, if the parties fail to settle the dispute within that period, the dispute is to be referred back to the Court or the Tribunal that permitted the settlement. This provision of the Tax Procedures Act in allowing for settlement of tax disputes vide Alternative Dispute Resolution along with Article 159 of the Constitution are the basis for use of ADR in tax disputes resolution in Kenya. Indeed, the KRA ADR Framework allows parties to refer disputes to Alternative Dispute Resolution before or in lieu of referring them to the Tribunal or appealing to the Court unless the dispute is not amenable to ADR.

*This article is an extract from published article “The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Framework for Tax Dispute Resolution in Kenya,” by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, the African Arbitrator of the Year 2022, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), CIArb (Kenya) ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 and ADR Publisher of the Year 2021. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Foremost Dispute Resolution Expert in Africa ranked among Top 6 Arbitrators in Kenya by Chambers and Partners, Leading Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized as one of the leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts by the Chambers Global Guide 2022. 

References

Muigua, K., “The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Framework for Tax Dispute Resolution in Kenya,” Available at: http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/ADR-of-Tax-Disputes-in-Kenya-Article-by-Dr-Kariuki-Muigua-00000002.pdf (accessed on 20th June 2022).

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Former KCB Company Secretary Sues Over Unlawful Dismissal

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Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania who has sued the Bank for Unlawful Dismissal

Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania has sued the lender seeking reinstatement or be compensated for illegal sacking almost three years ago. Lawyer Kania was the KCB Group company secretary until restructuring of the lender in 2021 that saw some senior executives dropped.

Through the firm of Senior Counsel Wilfred Nderitu, Kamau wants the court to order KCB Group to unconditionally reinstate him to employment without altering any of the contractual terms until his retirement in December 2025.

In his court documents filed before Employment and Labour Relations Court, the career law banker seeks the court to declare the reorganization of the company structure a nullity and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution. He further wants the court to declare that the position of Group Company Secretary did not at any time cease to exist within the KCB Group structure.

He further urged the Employment Court to declare that the recruitment and appointment of Bonnie Okumu, his former assistant, as the Group Company Secretary, in relation to the contemporaneous termination of his employment, was unprocedural, insufficient and inappropriate to infer a lawful termination of his employment.

“A declaration that the factual and legal circumstances of the Petitioner’s termination of employment were insufficient and inappropriate to infer a redundancy against him, and that any redundancy declared by the KCB Group in relation to him was therefore null, void and of no legal effect and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau says he was subjected to discriminatory practices by the KCB Bank Group in violation of his fundamental right to equality and freedom from discrimination as guaranteed in Article 27 of the Constitution and the termination of his employment was unfair, unjustified, illegal, null and void.

Lawyer Kamau further seeks the court to declare that the Non-Compete Clause in the 2016 Contract is unenforceable by the KCB Group as against him and is voidable by him as against the Bank ab initio, byreason of the termination of the Petitioner’s employment having been a violation of Articles 41(1) and 47(1) and (2) of the Constitution, and of the Employment Act.

He also wants the Employment Court to find that finding that KCB’s group legal representation by Messrs of Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates law firm in respect of his claim for unlawful termination of employment resulted in a clear conflict of interest by reason of the fact that a Founding and Senior Partner at the said firm lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga is also the Chairman of the CBK’s Board of Directors.

“A Declaration that the circumstances of KCB’s legal representation by Messrs. Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates resulted in a violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to have the employment dispute decided independently and impartially, as guaranteed in Article 50(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau is seeking damages against both KCB Group and Central Bank of Kenya jointly and severally for the violation of his constitutional and fundamental right to fair labour practices.

He wants  further wants court to declare that CBK is liable to petitioner on account of its breach of statutory duty to effectively regulate KCB Group to ensure that KCB complied with the Central Bank of Kenya Prudential Guidelines and all other Laws, Rules, Codes and Standards, and that, as an issuer of securities, it complied with capital markets legislation.

Kamau through his lawyer Nderitu told the court that he was involved in Shareholder engagement in introducing the Group aide-mémoire that significantly improved the management of the Annual General Meetings, including obtaining approval without voting through the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Kenya Commercial Bank Limited among others.

He said that during his employment at KCB Bank Kenya and with the KCB Group, he initially worked well with former KCB CEO Joseph Oigara until 2016 when the CEO allegedly started sidelining him by removing the legal function from his reporting line.

He further claims he was transferred from the Group’s offices at Kencom House to its offices Upper Hill under the guise that the Petitioner was merely to support the KCB Group Board.

He adds that at that point his roles were given to Okumu for reasons that were not related to work demands.  He stated that Oigara at one time proposed that he should leave his role in the KCB Group and go and serve as the Company Secretary of the National Bank of Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of the Group, a suggestion which he disagreed with to Oigara’s utter annoyance.

Kamau stated that his work was thenceforth unfairly discredited, leading to his being taken through a disciplinary process whose intended outcome failed miserably, and the Petitioner was vindicated.

“More specifically, the Petitioner contends that the purported creation of a new organizational structure towards the end of 2020 was in fact Oigara’s orchestration targeted to remove certain individuals by requiring them to undergo interviews in the pretext that new roles were created, and amounted to a further violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to fair labour practices under Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” said in his court documents.

He further adds that this sham reorganization demonstrates how the role of the KCB Group Company Secretary purportedly ceased to be and was then very briefly replaced with a new role of the KCB Group General Counsel. The role of KCB Group Company Secretary then ‘resurfaced’ immediately thereafter, in total violation of legal and regulatory requirements.

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Court of Appeal Upholds Eviction of Radcliffes from Karen Land

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Adrian Radcliffe, the Expatriate Squatter, Evicted from Karen Property by Innocent Purchaser for Value

The Court of Appeal has stayed the decision of the Environment and Land Court purporting to reinstate Adrian Radcliffe into possession of the 5.7 Acre Karen Land by Kena Properties Ltd after eviction by the lawful owners in February 2022. Adrian Radcliffe who was evicted by Kena Properties Ltd, the innocent purchaser of the Land for value.

Before his eviction, Mr. Radcliffe had been living on the land as a squatter expatriate for 33 years without paying any rent. Since he moved into the property as a tenant, he only paid deposit for the land in August 1989 despite corresponding severally with the owner of the land. His attempt to acquire the land by adverse possession claim filed in 2005 was dismissed by Court in 2011 on the basis that he has engaged with the owner of the land July 1997 and agreed to buy the land which he failed to do. The High Court [Justice Kalpana Rawal as she then was] concluded that:

“His [Mr. Adrian Radcliffe] averments that he did not have any idea of the whereabouts of the Defendant and that he could possibly be not alive, were not only very sad but mala fide in view of the correspondence on record addressed by him to the Defendant’s wife. I would thus find that the averments made by him to the contrary are untrue looking to the facts of this case.”

On 10th March 2022, Mr. Adrian Radcliffe and Family purported to obtain court orders for reinstatement into the land. However, the Court of Appeal issued an interim stay of execution of the said orders. The Court of Appeal has now granted the application of Kena Properties Ltd and stayed the execution of the Environment and Land Court Order pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal.

The Court also stayed the proceedings at the Environment and Land Court on the matter during the pendency of the Appeal. In effect, the eviction orders issued by the Chief Magistrate Court for eviction of Mr. Adrian Radcliffe in favour of Kena Properties as the purchaser of the property for value were upheld and the company now enjoys unfettered ownership and possession of the suit property until the conclusion of the Appeal.

The Court of Appeal in granting the orders sought by Kena Properties Ltd concurred with Kena Properties Ltd that as the property owner it had an arguable appeal with a high probability of success which would be rendered nugatory if Adrian Radcliffe a trespasser was to resume his unlawful possession of the suit property, erect structures thereon, recklessly use or abuse the said suit property as he deems fit. In any case, that is bound to fundamentally alter the state of the suit property and render it unusable by Kena Properties Ltd as the property owner.

At the same time, the Appellate Court rubbished the argument of Adrian Radcliffe in opposition to the application for stay that he has been in occupation of the suit property for more than 30 years and that he and his family were unlawfully evicted from the suit property on 4th February, 2022. The Court also rejected Radcliffe’s claim that Kena Properties Ltd has no valid title to the suit property and held that as the purchaser, the company was entitled to enjoy ownership and possession of their property during the pendency of the appeal.

The Court dismissed claims of Mr. Adrian Radcliffe that Kena Properties Ltd as the property owner acquired title to the suit property illegally and unprocedurally finding to the contrary. Further, it rejected Adrian Radcliffe’s claim that Kena Properties as the purchaser cannot evict a legal occupier of a property putting paid to the claim that he was a legal occupier at the time of eviction.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Adrian Radcliffe cannot claim to be the legal occupier of the property having attempted to acquire it by adverse possession before the High Court thwarted his fraudulent scheme on 28th February 2011. Mr. Radcliffe did not appeal the 2011 High Court decision meaning it is still the law that he is not the owner of the land nor the legal occupier of the land having attempted to adversely acquire against the interests of the lawful owner who sold it to Kena Properties.

Mr. Adrian Radcliffe is a well-to-do Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) UNICEF consultant and former UN employee (who has been earning hefty House Allowance). Many have wondered why he has been defaulting in paying rent for 33 years on the prime plot of land in Karen while living large and taking his kids to most expensive schools in Kenya. No question, a local Kenyan could never have gotten away with such selfish impunity.

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Review: Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 9, No. 1

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The Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Volume 9, Issue No. 1, which is edited by and published by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD is out and stays true to the reputation of the journal in providing a platform for scholarly debate on thematic areas in the fields of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development. The current issue published in September 2022 covers diverse topics including Resolving Oil and Gas Disputes in Africa; National Environment Tribunal, Sustainable Development and Access to Justice in Kenya; Protection of Cultural Heritage During War; The Role of Water in the attainment of Sustainable Development in Kenya; Property Rights in Human Biological Materials in Kenya; Nurturing our Wetlands for Biodiversity Conservation; Investor-State Dispute Resolution in a Fast-Paced World; Status of Participation of Women in Mediation; Business of Climate Change and Critical Analysis of World Trade Organization’s Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Treatment.

Dr. Wilfred A. Mutubwa and Eunice Njeri Ng’ang’a in “Resolving Oil and Gas Disputes in an Integrating Africa: An Appraisal of the Role of Regional Arbitration Centres” explore the nature of disputes in the realm of oil and gas in Africa taking a look into the recent continental and sub-regional developments in a bid to establish regional integration. Additionally, it tests the limits of intra-African trade and dispute resolution and the imperatives for the African regional courts and arbitration centres. In “National Environment Tribunal, Sustainable Development and Access to Justice in Kenya,” Dr. Kariuki Muigua discusses the role played by the National Environment Tribunal (NET) in promoting access to justice and enhancing the principles of sustainable development in Kenya. The paper also highlights challenges facing the tribunal and proposes recommendations towards enhancing the effectiveness of the tribunal.

Dr. Kenneth Wyne Mutuma in “Protecting Cultural Heritage in Times of War: A Case for History,” argues that cultural heritage is at the heart of human existence and its preservation even in times of war is sacrosanct. It concludes that it is thus critical for states to take positive and tangible steps to ensure environmental conservation and protection during war within the ambit of the existing international legal framework. In “The Role of Water in the attainment of Sustainable Development in Kenya,” Jack Shivugu critically evaluates the role of water in the attainment of sustainable development in Kenya and argues water plays a critical role in the attainment of the sustainable development goals both in Kenya and at the global stage. The paper interrogates some of the water and Sustainable Development concerns in Kenya including water pollution, water scarcity and climate change and suggests practical ways to enhance the role of water in the Sustainable Development agenda.

Dr. Paul Ogendi in “Collective Property Rights in Human Biological Materials in Kenya,” reflects on property rights in relation to human biological materials obtained from research participants participating in genomic research. He argues that property rights are crucial in genomic research because they can help avoid exploitation or abuse of such precious material by researchers. In “Nurturing our Wetlands for Biodiversity Conservation,” Dr. Kariuki Muigua notes that Wetlands have a vital role in not just delivering ecological services to meet human needs, but also in biodiversity conservation. Wetlands are vital habitat sites for many species and a source of water, both of which contribute to biodiversity protection. The paper examines the role of wetlands in biodiversity conservation and how these wetland resources might be managed to improve biodiversity conservation.

Oseko Louis D. Obure in “Investor-State Dispute Resolution in a Fast-Paced World,” preponderance of disputes between States or States and Investors created need for a robust, effective, and efficient mechanisms not only for the resolution of these disputes but also their prevention. He notes that developing states lead in being parties to Investor-State Disputes (ISD) particularly as respondents. He proceeds to conceptualize and problematize investor-state disputes resolution in a fast-paced world. Lilian N.S. Kong’ani and Dr. Kariuki Muigua in “Status of Participation of Women in Mediation: A case Study of Development Project Conflict in Olkaria IV, Kenya” review the status of participation of women in mediation to resolve conflicts between KenGen and the community. The paper demonstrates a need for further democratization of the mediation processes to cater for more participation of women to enhance the mediation results and offer more sustainable resolutions.

Felix Otieno Odhiambo and Melinda Lorenda Mueni in “The Business of Climate Change: An Analysis of Carbon Trading in Kenya analyses the business of carbon trading in the context of Kenya’s legal framework. The article examines the legal framework that underpins climate change into the Kenyan legal system and provides an exposition of the concept of carbon trading and its various forms. Michael Okello, in “Critical Analysis of World Trade Organisation’s Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Treatment: Prospects, Challenges and Emerging Trends in the 21st Century,” highlights the rationale behind MFN treatment and also restates the vision of multilateral trade to achieve equitable and special interventions with respect to trade in goods, services and trade related intellectual property rights in the affected states.

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