Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga has asked the Kenya Revenue Authority to release its grip on the Keroche Breweries Limited after shutting it down for the second time over default in payment of tax arrears.
Odinga was speaking in an Azimio stakeholder meeting in Thika on Friday, June 17, where he urged the taxman to refrain from taking punitive measures that result in the crippling of private businesses that are backbone of the country's economy, as a plot to reclaim unpaid taxes.
He asked the government to facilitate a good working environment for such businesses through the regulation of taxes so that it was easy for them to comply with remittance.
"It is not right to become punitive in terms of taxes. If taxes are too high, there is a tendency to evade them, but if they are low and manageable, people will pay. Don’t close a business because the owner has defaulted in paying taxes," Odinga stated.
“That is why I am telling them, let Keroche go, don’t kill Keroche. If she cannot pay today, let her pay tomorrow. Spread out the payment. She is a Kenyan... Where can she run away to?" he posed.
Odinga called out bureaucrats in state agencies who were bent on seeing through the downfall of such enterprises, as it had a ripple effect on the thousands of Kenyans who relied on them for their livelihood.
“Don’t do it because if you close a business, you are not only killing the investor but you are also killing the employees,” he noted.
The presidential aspirant pledged to protect the private sector in his administration in the event that he clinched the presidency, through the abolition of oppressive tax laws that put businesses on the losing end.
“The private sector is an engine for economic growth. The government needs to create an enabling environment for the sector to thrive by removing bureaucratic red tape so that the private sector can move and create wealth,” he remarked.
Keroche CEO Tabitha Karanja in a press briefing on Tuesday, June 14 revealed the company was shut down on May 15, 2022, after defaulting on an earlier agreed plan with KRA to remit taxes amounting to Kshs 30 million.
The taxman also issued notices to several banks against lending the brewer which has crippled the operations of the company, with Karanja pegging the move on political motivations by the State.
"The KRA measures of issuing the agency notices to all the banks in Kenya, have induced a harsh investment climate. Some banks with whom we were arranging financing are finding it difficult because frequent closures are raising risk levels," said Karanja.