A post by one Maxwell Otieno on Monday, October 30, caused a storm on X (the social network formerly known as Twitter) after it shed light on little-known custom laws that less frequent travellers are familiar with.
“If you are coming to Kenya via JKIA please don't carry electronics. Either you pay 63%! of the market value or leave the item. I've seen guys crying at the arrivals section. Imagine being charged 150k.” the post that has over 1 million views reads.
One of the early replies to the post suggested a hack that most travellers would have assumed would make an imported item tax-exempt - present as used.
“Unbox them.. why carry them in their original packaging boxes?” reads the reply, to which Otieno replied;
“They were unboxed, that's why it's a big issue. A lady had to leave her jewellery for a wedding she was attending here. They don't care.”
As more Kenyans tagged the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) X handle for clarification over the seemingly unfair taxation of exempt goods, the authority published a response affirming that the conduct of the custom officers alluded to in the post was legal.
“All goods, whether new or used, are subject to taxation. However, different passenger categories have different concessions and entitlements,” the authority captioned a post with a graphic bearing the text below.
“Remember when travelling you will be allowed to carry personal or household items worth USD500 and below. Anything above the amount shall be subjected to tax. #PlanYourTravel,” this post would later be deleted after stirring quite the storm.
Below, we take a look at what the applicable customs regulations say.
Matters regarding customs and border control in Kenya are regulated by the East African Community Customs Management Act of 2004 (EACCMA).
The details of the goods exempt from tax are found in the 5th schedule of EACCMA. Part A of this fifth schedule deals with specific exemptions to customs duty, Part B deals with general exemptions.
Under Part A, for instance, exemptions are provided for goods imported for:
Under Part B of the 5th schedule, general exemptions are provided for, including;
It is this Part B of the 5th schedule of the act that contains the details of the exemptions for passenger baggage and personal effects. Below is how this section reads
Goods imported by passengers arriving from places outside the Partner States shall, subject to the limitations and conditions specified in the following paragraphs:
The goods shall be:
(a)the property of and accompany the passenger, except as provided in Paragraph 7;
(b)for the personal or household use of the passenger in a Partner State;
and (c)of such kinds and in such quantities as the proper officer may allow.
(2) Notwithstanding Paragraph (1) (c), the following goods shall not be exempted under this item:-
(a)alcoholic beverages of all kinds, perfumes, spirits and tobacco and Manufactures thereof, except as provided in Paragraphs 6 and 7 of this item;
(b)fabrics in piece;
(c)motor vehicles, except as provided in Paragraph (3) and (4);
(d)any trade goods or goods for sale or disposal to other persons.
(3) Subject to Paragraphs (1) and (2), the following goods may be exempted under this item when imported, as baggage by a person on first arrival or a returning resident of a Partner State whom the proper officer is satisfied is bona fide changing residence from a place outside a Partner State to a place within a Partner State,
(a) wearing apparel;
(b) personal and household effects of any kind which were in his personal or household use in his former place of residence;
(c) one motor vehicle, (excluding buses and minibuses of seating capacity of more than 13 passengers and load carrying vehicles of load carrying capacity exceeding two tonnes) which the passenger has personally owned and used outside a Partner State for at least twelve months (excluding the period of the voyage in the case of shipment):
Provided that the person has attained the age of eighteen years.
(4) Subject to Paragraphs (1) and (2) of this item, the following goods may be exempted under this item when imported as baggage by a person whom the proper officer is satisfied is making a temporary visit not exceeding three months to a Partner State:
(a) non-consumable goods imported for his personal use during his visit which he intends to take out with him when he leaves at the end of his visit;
(b) consumable provisions and non-alcoholic beverages in such quantities and of such kinds as are in the opinion of the proper officer consistent with his visit;
(c) that the goods are imported by a returning resident being an employee of an international organisation the headquarters of which are in a Partner State and who has been recalled for consultations at the organisation's headquarters.
(5) Subject to Paragraphs (1) and (2) of this item, the following goods may be exempted under this item when imported as baggage by a person who the proper officer is satisfied is a resident of a Partner State returning from a visit outside a Partner State and who is not changing residence in accordance with paragraphs (3) and (4):
(a) wearing apparel;
(b) personal and household effects which have been in his personal use or household use.
(6) Subject to paragraph (1) of this item, and subject to sub-paragraph (b) of this paragraph, duty shall not be levied on the following goods imported by, and in the possession of a passenger:-
(a) spirits (including liquors) or wine, not exceeding one litre or wine not exceeding two litres;
(b) perfume and toilet water not exceeding in all one half litre, of which not more than a quarter may be perfume;
(c) cigarettes, cigars, cheroots, cigarillos, tobacco and snuff not exceeding in all 250 grams in weight. The import duty free allowance shall be granted only to passengers who have attained the age of eighteen years.
(7) Subject to Paragraphs (1) and (2) of this item, the exemptions granted in accordance with Paragraphs (3), (4) and (5) of this Item may be allowed in respect of baggage imported within ninety days of the date arrival of the passenger or such further period not exceeding three hundred and sixty days from such arrival as the Commissioner-General may allow. The duty free allowances granted in accordance with Paragraph (6) of this item shall not be allowed in respect of goods specified in the paragraph imported in unaccompanied baggage.
(8) Where any person who has been granted an exemption under Paragraphs (3) or (4) changes his residence to a place outside a Partner State within ninety days from the date of his arrival, he shall export his personal or household effects within thirty days, or such further period not exceeding sixty days from the date he changes his residence to a place outside a Partner State, as the Commissioner may allow, otherwise duty becomes payable from the date of importation,
(9) Subject to Paragraphs (1) and (2) of this item, goods up to the value of United States Dollars Three Hundred for each traveller in respect of goods, other than goods referred to in Paragraph 8 of this item, shall be exempted when imported by the traveller in his or her accompanied baggage or upon his or her person and declared by him or her to an officer, provided that the person has been outside the Partner State for a period in excess of 24 hours.