Online tax services offer cyber cafes a lifeline in Kenya

Internet

Cyber café operators stand a chance to widen their revenue stream by tapping into the government’s initiatives of providing services online. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Ministry of Immigration have come up with systems where people can track on the Internet or through mobile phones the progress of applications for documents like passports.

The initiatives offer the cyber cafes opportunity to draw more customers, who are expected to start using the services in efforts to reduce travel costs and enjoy better services. In an effort to ensure the cyber café operators were conversant with the KRA forms and the system, the taxman will start training operators from last week.

The authority intends to put a toll-free line that the operators will use to handle queries associated with the new system. Kennedy Wanyonyi, the deputy commissioner at KRA, said the training will be spread across the country beginning next week. “We intend to provide basic skills on how the operators can assist their clients fill in the forms,” said Wanyonyi.

Some of the forms people can work on online are the Value Added Tax forms and the Personal Identification Number (PIN). According to latest statistics from Communications Commission of Kenya, the country has 3.3 million Internet users.

Cyber cafés offering assistance have been asked not to charge extra fees. In an advertisement, KRA said it had “not prescribed any fees to be paid by cyber café for accessing KRA online services,” adding the businesses would be expected to stick to their regular rates.

Most operators told Business Daily they welcomed the idea of training but asked KRA to make the system user-friendly. Richard Kariuki a technician at Cyberdome along Kimathi street, said the agency had to improve on speed. “If they improve on speed, it will make more money and they will be able to serve more people in a short time. It is a win-win situation” said Kariuki.

J.J Manyara of Rajocyber who has trained his staff on the KRA online services, says the major drawback was the speed. “Being a service that is accessed by many people at the same time, KRA should ensure that their Internet capacity is always high,” said Manyara.

He says in the morning when there are few people accessing the site, it takes an average five minutes to fill in the PIN form. But this rises to more than an hour by middday when more people sign in. He says the move was a pointer to increased business when more people start embracing the service. “Right now we serve around 200 clients on a good day down from 500 three years ago” he said, adding there was stiff competition in the business.

Business Daily