According to a report published via Business Daily, Kenyan operator Safaricom has rejected the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) request to gain access to its customers’ mobile money records.
This move, according to the report, prevents the KRA from exposing those committing tax fraud. The report further revealed that Safaricom said it will not give the KRA its customer data unless laws regarding confidentiality were changed to allow the mining of such data.
The KRA, according to the report, is seeking to gain unrestricted access to taxpayer bank and mobile money accounts as part of the efforts to catch tax cheats and improve revenue collection as its targets continue to rise.
Safaricom’s corporate affairs director, Stephen Chege said, within the report, that the Constitution of Kenya restricts access to confidential customer information. Other laws such as the National Payment Systems Act and the regulations thereunder, which govern M-Pesa, also restrict access to such information unless by a court order.
According to the report the treasury secretary Henry Rotich has, through the Finance Bill 2016, amended a section of the Tax Procedures Act (TPA), laying the ground for KRA’s wish to be granted. The KRA, according to the report, needed the law change to spare it the burden of having to seek court orders every time it wants to access an individual’s account, but tax experts and lawyers have warned of fierce legal opposition to the invasion of people’s privacy.
The proposed law, as revealed by the report, says: “A person shall, upon being required to do so by the commissioner, furnish the commissioner with returns showing such information, in such form and manner and within such time as the commissioner may prescribe.” Companies and individuals tend to bank money they cannot spend, an indication of the surpluses in a person’s financial or business operations for which they are required to pay tax.
Access to Safaricom’s M-Pesa transactions would give the KRA a plethora of financial information for use in tracking tax evaders.