When you find employment in Kenya or go on an intra-company transfer to Nairobi, there are some things to keep in mind. As with any relocation, you should have a close look at your salary and the local cost of living you can expect in your new home.
Nairobi is hardly the most expensive destination worldwide: It ranked as #104 out of 207 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2015. But, the living expenses for expatriates are nevertheless worth considering.
If your salary is going to be paid in a foreign currency, the exchange rate is going to influence your real income. A strong US Dollar, for instance, means that you have a higher disposable income while you are living in Nairobi — most expenses are paid in Kenyan shillings (KES) after all.
Unfortunately, the country’s high inflation rate has devalued the Kenyan shilling in the recent past. Though inflation seems to have abated for the time being, it remains difficult to list reliable information on prices for necessities such as food or toiletries. Due to the aforementioned inflation and fluctuating prices, figures like these are quickly outdated.
Generally speaking, several items are always going to take huge chunks out of your expat budget.
As far as tax in Kenya is concerned, you first need to determine if you are a fiscal resident. In some cases, there are different regulations and tax rates for residents and non-residents. The rule of thumb for fiscal residency is the time you spend in Kenya. If you reside in Nairobi (or any other Kenyan city) for 183 days per tax year or more, you normally count as a resident for the Kenya Revenue Authority.
Fiscal residents pay tax on all employment income, including overtime pay, bonuses, commissions, financial benefits, allowances, and some other benefits in kind. If you have employment income from foreign sources or profits on business activities across borders, you have to pay taxes on it, but only if you’re a resident. Other than that, it is just income accruing in or derived from Kenya that needs to be taxed.
If you collect any interest, dividends, royalties, or technical service fees which accrue abroad, you may or may not be subject to taxation according to Kenyan law depending on the country in which they were accrued. Kenya has treaties and agreements with some countries regarding such taxes, so the advice of a tax consultant is highly recommended.
There is no inheritance tax, gift tax, estate tax, or wealth tax. However, while Kenia suspended the capital gains tax for many years, it was reintroduced in 2015.
If your job is your only source of income while you are living in Nairobi, taxation is quite easy. Just check if your employer files monthly PAYE tax reports for you. The company then deducts all taxes and social security contributions directly from your salary as withholding tax. If the company does not take care of this, you have to file such reports yourself, at least once during each quarter. In this case (and/or if you have several sources of income in Kenya), it’s probably best to contact a tax accountant.
A tax consultant can easily calculate your taxable income, inform you about potential deductions, and tell you which benefits in kind are subject to taxation. Tax accountants can also be of help if you would like to know more about double taxation treaties.
At the moment, Kenya has tax relief treaties with Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, and Zambia. Other agreements are under negotiation or signed, but not yet in force. Such tax agreements do not only prevent you from possibly taxing the same income twice; in some cases, they even provide a slightly lower tax rate on selected sources of income in Kenya.
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