A beginner’s guide to filing tax returns
Filing your taxes every year doesn’t have to be hard. Here’s a general overview of the basics that will help you learn how to avoid rookie mistakes and ensure you are prepared to file your taxes this tax season.
If for the past year you’ve had an ongoing income source, then you are required to file your tax returns. Filing tax returns can seem like an overwhelming and sometimes frustrating process-especially if you are racing against the deadline alongside millions of other Kenyans trying to access the iTax web portal.
There are several scenarios that can make filing taxes complicated. For example, not everyone who works is in a salary earning role. Others earn their income as freelancers or as independent contractors. And there are those who earn dividends from various investments.
These nuances can seem intimidating. To break it down, here’s a general overview of the basics that will help you learn how to avoid rookie mistakes and ensure you are prepared to file your taxes this tax season.
Essentials needed to file tax returns
These depend on what type of income you intend to declare. If you are filing for employment income tax, then you need a P9 Form. A P9 Form is a tax deduction card issued by your employer containing a summary of your salaries.
It contains the basic salary, benefits, allowances, gross pay, pension contribution, PAYE (Pay as You Earn) and personal relief entitlement.
According to David Mutoro Busaule, KRA Business Process Management – Compliance Management and External Integrations, there’s a huge misconception that the P9 Form is issued by KRA.
“People think it comes from KRA, but it is provided by your employer, for those in employment,” he says.
Under employment income tax, there are some allowable deductions and reliefs. For example, if you have a mortgage, you require a statement from the mortgage lender or bank in order to qualify for the relief.
Additionally, if you have insurance policies – health, life and education – you qualify for an insurance relief. However, for an education policy, you only qualify if the premiums paid have a maturity period of 10 years and over.
If you are filing under Business Income tax, you require a summary of the income and expenses to enable you to file returns. David says other incomes like farming income must however be declared separately, and rental income is filed under the same return but in different columns.
Who is required to file tax returns?
Anyone with a PIN Number must file tax returns. It does not matter whether you are employed or not, as long as you have a PIN Number you should file taxes.
“Filing doesn’t mean paying. If you don’t have taxable income KRA doesn’t expect you to pay taxes but you need to file a nil return. If you don’t file you might be penalized,” says David.
It is not compulsory to have a PIN number, David says, but, there are transactions in the tax procedures that require one to have a pin. For example, if you want to register a meter number, register land, a motor vehicle, register for HELB or import goods, you are required to have a PIN Number.
Millions of Kenyans file tax returns, but that does not mean it’s an easy process, especially if you have never filed taxes before. If you need guidance and someone to walk you through the ins and outs of filing your tax returns, you can:
–Call the KRA contact center.
-Watch tutorial videos on KRA’s website.
-As the last resort, especially during Covid-19, visit the nearest KRA touchpoints, tax service office, or Huduma Centre for assistance.
Claiming your tax refund
A tax refund can be a cause for celebration. But, that usually means that you paid more income tax than you were supposed to. If you paid more than was necessary, then the government will refund the excess money. But it can also be a cause for alarm if you are in employment and your employer fails to grant you relief if you have an insurance policy or a mortgage. Employers are typically expected to deduct and remit their employees’ taxes.
“If you have filed your tax returns and expect to receive a refund, then you can apply for a reimbursement. But remember, filing your tax returns is the only way you can get tax refunds,” says David.
He continues, “KRA pays refunds, people are genuinely surprised when they receive tax refunds but you must apply for a refund and upload the necessary documentation to get it”
Treasury provides the money to pay refunds on a quarterly basis, and KRA pays within three months.
To claim tax refunds, log onto. You will require: your P9 form relating to the excess deductions, insurance policy certificates if the claims are related to insurance relief, a mortgage certificate (from a financial institution) if the claims are related to interest on a home ownership plan and finally a withholding tax certificate for claims relating to tax deducted at source.
What to do if you owe KRA money
Every year, KRA allows Kenyans to pay their taxes between 31st December and 30th June. Once this period is over, a fine or a penalty will be applicable to anyone who has not filed his or her taxes. To avoid further charges, one is required to pay the fines to KRA or via M-PESA.
“If you can liaise with a tax service office, go to the debt office and they will help you come up with an agreed payment plan. But you must provide supporting documents to show that for example, maybe business was not performing well.” Says David.
To avoid mistakes that will see you accumulate penalties, you should:
-File the proper returns.
-File the correct returns declaring the right income by the due date to avoid penalties and interests.
-When in doubt liaise with KRA, write them an email to clarify which incomes are taxable.
-Apply for a waiver and give genuine reasons why you paid late and you may get reprieve or an arranged payment plan.