Kenya Inter Fright and Warehousing Association [KIFWA] members protest along Moi avenue in Mombasa.
Clearing agents have asked their members to stop cargo haulage as they made good their threat to go on strike in a standoff with the taxman over renewal of their licences.
The agents allied to the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) said yesterday small traders, especially those dealing in mitumba (second-hand clothes), would be the first to feel the pinch.
“It will be a painful decision if we have to stop moving cargo, but we have no choice but to resort to the only language that KRA understands,” said KIFWA in statement.
“This decision is apparently punishing customs agents, but the actual sufferers are the people of Kenya who are bound to lose billions of shillings in uncollected tax and the ordinary people like those traders in Gikomba market who rely on our services for their businesses to thrive.”
Talks hit a brick wall after the Kenya Revenue Authority insisted the clearing agents fill bio-data forms before April 1, to have their 2017 licences renewed.
Other data sought through the KRA form include the number of employees a firm has and whether or not it pays statutory labour contributions on their behalf such as Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
KIFWA members claimed the form is not an official KRA document, terming it illegitimate.
The taxman, however, said the new regulations would help curb rampant corruption at the ports and help fight drug trafficking since the agents would have to disclose crucial information about their business operations and clients.
The agents claimed the new regulations were a deliberate effort to use the single customs territory to kill small and medium firms.
“The SMEs that KRA is trying to kill, to protect multinationals, are providing employment to more than 100,000 Kenyans and supporting up to one million others indirectly. These jobs matter and the lives being supported through the sector matter, too,” said the lobby.
The clearing agents said they had little choice given the way KRA was treating the matter, saying they would remain available for dialogue with KRA and the National Treasury on the best way forward.
KIFWA said Commissioner General John Njiraini had refused to engage with them, which they said pointed to malice and bad intention against the clearing agents.
They called on Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich to convene an urgent meeting between them and other players to resolve the standoff.