News & Analysis
The Approaches to Resolution of Tax Disputes in Kenya
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.
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).
News & Analysis
Brief History of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, C.Arb, Current Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Representing the Republic of Kenya.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is a 124 Years Old Intergovernmental Organization currently with 122 contracting states. It was established at the turn of 20th Century during the first Hague Peace Conference held between 18th May and 29th July 1899. The conference was an initiative of then Russian Czar Nicholas II to discuss peace and disarmament and specifically with the object of “seeking the most effective means of ensuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and lasting peace, and, above all, of limiting the progressive development of existing armaments.” The culmination of the conference was the adoption of a Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which dealt not only with arbitration but also with other methods of pacific settlement, such as good offices and mediation.
The aim of the conference was to “strengthen systems of international dispute resolution” especially international arbitration which in the last century had proven effective for the purpose with number of successful international arbitrations being concluded among Nations. The Alabama arbitration of 1871-1872 between the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) under the Treaty of Washington of 1871 culminating in the arbitral tribunal’s award that the UK pay the US compensation for breach of neutrality during American Civil War which it did had demonstrated the effectiveness of arbitration in settling of international disputes and piqued interest of many practitioners in it as a mode of dispute resolution during the latter years of the nineteenth century.
The Institut de Droit International adopted a code of procedure for arbitration in 1875 to answer the need for a general law of arbitration governing for countries and parties wishing to have recourse to international arbitration. The growth of arbitration as a mode of international dispute resolution formed the background of the 1899 conference and informed its most enduring achievement, namely, the establishment of the PCA as the first global mechanism for the settlement of disputes between states. Article 16 of the 1899 Convention recognized that “in questions of a legal nature, and especially in the interpretation or application of International Conventions” arbitration is the “most effective, and at the same time the most equitable, means of settling disputes which diplomacy has failed to settle.”
In turn, the 1899 Convention provided for the creation of permanent machinery to enable the setting up of arbitral tribunals as necessary and to facilitate their work under the auspices of the institution it named as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). In particular, Article 20 of the 1899 Convention stated that “[w]ith the object of facilitating an immediate recourse to arbitration for international differences which it has not been possible to settle by diplomacy, the signatory Powers undertake to organize a Permanent Court of Arbitration, accessible at all times and operating, unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, in accordance with the rules of procedure inserted in the present Convention.” In effect, the Convention set up a permanent system of international arbitration and institutionalized the law and practice of arbitration in a definite and acceptable way.
As a result, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was established in 1900 and began operating in 1902. The PCA as established consisted of a panel of jurists designated by each country acceding to the Convention with each country being entitled to designate up to four from among whom the members of each arbitral tribunal might be chosen. In addition, the Convention created a permanent Bureau, located in The Hague, with functions similar to those of a court registry or secretariat. The 1899 Convention also laid down a set of rules of procedure to govern the conduct of arbitrations under the PCA framework.
The second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 saw a revision of the 1899 Convention and improvement of the rules governing arbitral proceedings. Today, the PCA has developed into a modern, multi-faceted arbitral institution perfectly situated to meet the evolving dispute resolution needs of the international community. The Permanent Court of Arbitration has also diversified its service offering alongside those contemplated by the Conventions. For instance, today the International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration serves as a registry in important international arbitrations. In 1993, the Permanent Court of Arbitration adopted new “Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes between Two Parties of Which Only One Is a State” and, in 2001, “Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Natural Resources and/or the Environment”.
PCA Website: https://pca-cpa.org/en/about/introduction/history/ (accessed on 25th May 2023).
News & Analysis
Former KCB Company Secretary Sues Over 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.
News & Analysis
Court of Appeal Upholds Eviction of Radcliffes from Karen Land
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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