Kiambu rescinds decision to tax freehold land

County has also recommended that rates for other chargeable land be scaled down

In Summary
  • The county assembly is currently reviewing the Kiambu County Valuation Act, 2016.
  • The Act is what guides the payment of land rates and has also collected views from members of the public.
Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi.
Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi.

The County Government of Kiambu has moved to exempt all freehold land in the county from being taxed and also reduce land rates for other ratable property.

Governor Kimani Wamatangi's administration has already forwarded to the county assembly a memorandum recommending that all freehold land from 10 acres and below that is not used for commercial purposes be defined as unratable property. 

Further, the county government has recommended that rates for other chargeable land be scaled down from the current 0.25 per cent as proposed in the valuation roll passed in 2016 to 0.15 per cent, thereby reducing the charges. 

The county assembly is currently reviewing the Kiambu County Valuation Act, 2016, which guides the payment of land rates and has also collected views from members of the public.

Assembly majority leader Geoffrey Mucheke said they have received recommendations from Wamatangi on the need to review the law and exempt freehold land from taxation.

"After receiving the recommendations and also consultations with the governor, the county assembly will move to resolve the matter once and for all this week. Our members have agreed to scrap the offensive law.

Speaking at St Peter's Catholic Church Nyamang'ara in Gatundu North in the company of Wamatangi, Muceke who is the Kalimoni MCA, also appealed to the National Assembly to reject a proposed amendment by Leader of Majority Kimani Ichung'wah to introduce taxes for all freehold land in the country.

He said if enacted by Parliament, the law may prompt counties to follow suit and introduce similar rates.

Wamatangi said his administration has heard the wishes of Kiambu residents regarding the new land rates and agreed to forward the recommendations to the county assembly for review.

"The land rates law was enacted in 2016 during the tenure of former Governor William Kabogo but we have not put it to effect. We have also heard the cries of our people that it is going to be punitive and have recommended to the county assembly that they review it and scrap the land tax," Wamatangi said.

Recently, members of the Law Society of Kenya filed a case in the Thika Land and Environment Court seeking to nullify the new rates.

The matter was filed by Stephen Mbugua seeking to have the Kiambu Valuation Rating Act 2016 declared unconstitutional as land owners stand to lose their property if they default.

Nationally, the Valuation for Rating Act 2015 which is applied in all counties and which guides the creation of the county valuation rolls, was passed in 2015 by Parliament and defines freehold title deeds as a ratable owner.

Presently, a proposed law dubbed "The National Rating Bill 2022, is before the Senate after it was approved by the National Assembly and seeks to provide a comprehensive framework for the imposition of rates on land and buildings by counties and also provide for the valuation of rateable properties.

If passed, counties will be taking into account the different categories of properties for purposes of payment of rates including residential and commercial properties, mineral lands that do not fall under industrial lands, agricultural properties; or any other category of properties as may be prescribed by legislation enacted by the respective county.

In the Kiambu case, the 2016 Land Act was adopted in 2018 when the county was under former Governor Ferdinand Waititu. It was thought to be a remedy to concerns that the county inherited different rating regimes from eight defunct local authorities which had created a non-harmonious rating system.

The system led to confusion in backdating arrears and charging of penalties as every subcounty has a different base year, and lack of legal notices to provide the bases of rates charged in some areas.

The continued use of expired valuation rolls had also opened the county to legal challenges, creating the need for a new valuation roll.

To create a harmonised system, in 2014, the county contracted the services of the Chief Government Valuer, the late Serrah Wanyande, to prepare a valuation roll since the Directorate of Valuation and Rating had not been established in the county at the time.

The purpose of the Act was to provide a framework for valuing and rating land to ensure efficiency, accountability and transparency in the administration of the valuation of land for rating and to introduce equity and fairness in the land valuation and rating system.

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