RULING

KRA wins Sh105.6m case against Mars Logistics

The firm had contested Tax Appeal Tribunal’s decision on VAT.

In Summary

•Tax Appeal Tribunal had ruled infavour of KRA,  that Mars  Logistics Limited’s sole business offered transport services for transit  goods that  were taxable under the VAT Act. 2013.

•The tribunal had further held that the company was not entitled to claim exempt  status for the sale of motor bikes because the motor bikes were not exempt.

The KRA headquarters at the Times Towers.
The KRA headquarters at the Times Towers.
Image: FILE

Kenya Revenue Authority will now levy VAT on cross-border transport firms after the High Court ruled that the service is taxable.

The court dismissed an appeal by Mars Logistics limited contesting  a VAT charge.

The firm had contested the Tax Appeal Tribunal’s (TAT) decision that  transportation of goods in transit attracts VAT at the rate of 16 per  cent.

The tribunal also held that transportation services that terminate outside Kenya are not exported services and thus taxable.

The First Schedule to the VAT Act, 2013 exempts VAT from services offered in relation to goods in transit.

 In its decision of 27th February 2018, TAT had ruled in favour of KRA,  that Mars  Logistics Limited’s sole business offered transport services for transit  goods that  were taxable under the VAT Act 2013.

The tribunal had further held that the company was not entitled to claim exempt status for the sale of motorbikes because the same were not exempt.

Last week, the Court held that under the VAT Act 2013, the determination of whether the services are exported out of the country is that the same must be for consumption outside Kenya.

Consumption is not determined by reference to the payer, location of the service payer or of the person who is requisitioning for the service, but the place where the services are consumed. 

In the instant case, the court found out that the  transport services were consumed in Kenya and had not been exported.

In dismissing Mars Logistics Limited argument that regulation 20 of the regulations made pursuant to the repeal of the Act continued to apply until the 2017 regulations came into force, the court held that subsidiary legislation cannot override the express provision of the statute.

Under the VAT Act, 2013, transportation of goods in transit is not zero-rated nor was it exempt from VAT. 

The Court upheld the findings of the Tribunal that in order to qualify for zero-rated status, the service should be specifically provided in the law.

The Court emphasised that services offered in relation to goods in transit were previously zero-rated but under the VAT Act, 2013 they were not. 

The High Court also dismissed Mars Logistics Limited’s contention that the provisions of the Finance Act, 2014  on exemption from VAT of supply of services  in respect of goods  in transit as read together with the VAT Act, 2013 created  ambiguity.

Further, the High Court held that Mars Logistics Limited did not demonstrate important principles applying to the construction of statutes including the presumption against absurdity, the presumption against  unworkable or impractical result, and the presumption against unusual or illogical results.

On allowable deductions under the Income Tax Act, the Court held that one of the fundamental conditions that must be satisfied for an item of expenditure to be deductible, is that it must be incurred ‘wholly and exclusively’ for the purposes of the trade, profession or vocation. 

Mars claim for input tax for exempt supplies was therefore disallowed.

The Court stated that the burden of proof was on Mars Logistics Limited to persuade the Commissioner for Domestic Taxes that the expenses were incurred, which burden was not discharged and the High  Court therefore found no reason to fault the Tribunal’s decision.