Bottles of Coca-Cola stacked on a shelf in a grocery store/ AP Photo
NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 18- The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is set to miss out on a Sh5.6 billion tax payout from Coca-Cola Bottlers following a decision by the Supreme Court.
This is after the Supreme Court declined the taxman’s request to revisit the litigation with the global beverage firm which started over 10 years ago.
KRA wanted the top court to review the decision to dismiss the tax dispute case with Coca-Cola Bottlers.
A five-judge bench presided by Chief Justice Martha Koome rejected the request, upholding an earlier decision dated September 22, 2021, on grounds that reopening the dispute, which started in 2012, is not only unconscionable but also insensitive and cruel.
“We note that the dispute commenced in the High Court in October 2012, ten years ago, then moved to the Court of Appeal, over nine years ago in July 2013,” the judges said.
“To start the case all over again, for no fault of the respondents, is not only unconscionable but also insensitive and cruel.”
The dispute involved the question of whether the soft drink company should pay taxes on costs incurred during washing and sanitising of returned bottles.
KRA was demanding tax arrears, penalties and interest for the period between 2006 and 2009 relating to the excise tax on returnable containers.
It had sued Coca-Cola’s local franchises -Mount Kenya Bottlers, Rift Valley Bottlers, Nairobi Bottlers and Kisii Bottlers.
KRA moved to the top court after three judges of the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision dated October 26, 2012, which allowed KRA to levy tax on returnable containers.
The Supreme Court judges unanimously held that KRA has not only been “injudicious (in the dispute) but also brazen” in flouting the directions of the court’s Deputy Registrar.
The court also ruled that KRA had not taken the matter with the seriousness deserved. Other judges on the bench include Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Justices Mohammed Ibrahim, Njoki Ndung’u, and William Ouko.