TECHNOLOGY

Digital channels key to iTax success

Clients filed returns early and number of filers increased from last year’s 3.2m to 3.6m.

In Summary

• KRA has substantially leveraged on the digital space to sell one of the arguably most difficult products to sell: Tax.

• Thanks to the modern digital communication channels, taxpayers now give KRA a ‘face’ they can easily associate with.

The 2019 annual income tax returns filing season will perhaps go down the books of history as one whose due date was not characterised by long queues. 

When KRA rolled out the iTax technology in 2014 to modernise tax administration, there were mixed reactions. Some saw the technology as an opportunity for enhanced tax compliance and efficiency in tax administration, but others felt that it was an obstacle to tax compliance.

The argument was that Kenya was not yet ripe for such technology given the then low uptake of ICT, especially in rural settings. Besides being perceived as a jigsaw, sensitising members of the public about iTax was like marketing a product or a service that potential buyers already have a negative attitude towards.

 

However, one thing was for sure: iTax was here to stay and there was no turning back. Since the implementation of iTax, it has taken a raft of measures to encourage usage of the system and to actualise the tagline 'iTax ni rahisi'. Apart from periodic enhancements to match taxpayers' expectations as well as other strategies, leveraging on digital communication has been key to bringing iTax closer to the hearts of taxpayers.

A few years ago, use of traditional media to communicate important messages such as tax due dates was the only reliable method. The messages would still not reach all members of the target audience since the audience is highly segmented in terms of demographics. A television advert, for instance, would run but some would miss it. Unless one waited for a rerun of the message, making reference was a challenge.    

In the recent past, internet penetration has risen substantially thanks to the proliferation of cell phones, which support internet connectivity. In a 2017 report, the Communications Authority of Kenya reported a 12.5 per cent increase in internet penetration, it could be higher.

Using traditional and digital platforms, KRA has managed to effectively communicate tax issues to different segments of taxpayers. The digital space has especially been instrumental in the annual returns filing awareness.

Because of this exponential growth, a perfect environment for digital communication to thrive has been set. Although at its early stages of penetration digital communication was perceived as a preserve of the private sector, the public sector is fast catching up, and KRA is leading the pack.

KRA has substantially leveraged on the digital space to sell one of the arguably most difficult products to sell: Tax. Using traditional and digital platforms, KRA has managed to effectively communicate tax issues to different segments of taxpayers. The digital space has especially been instrumental in the annual returns filing awareness.

As mentioned earlier, leveraging on digital communication during the 2019 annual tax returns filing season was phenomenal. Digital communication was among an array of factors that accounted for not only early filing among the taxpayers but also increased the number of filers from last year’s 3.2 million to 3.6 million.

Digital communication channels facilitate flexibility in the way the message is delivered to the target audience. This has enabled KRA to simplify the apparently complicated tax jargon to resonate with taxpayers from all walks of life. Digital communication platforms have also proved to be perfect vehicles for delivering messages that match contemporary events around the world.

 

Thanks to the modern digital communication channels, which give taxpayers room for feedback and interaction, taxpayers now give KRA a ‘face’ they can easily associate with. As Brand Quarterly reported in an article titled 'How digital empowerment has changed marketing communications' (2017), with proliferation of digital communications, customers are no longer on the listening end; they now have an opportunity to speak their hearts out. It is from customer feedback that KRA makes informed decisions about what the taxpayers want in order to enhance efficiency in services.

Although the role played by traditional communication platforms cannot be down-played, digital communication is highly indispensable in the current era. The private sector seems to have learnt this from the onset and the outcome has been evident. There is, therefore, need for more public sector players to embrace digital communication.  

Deputy Commissioner for Marketing and Communication, KRA