For those interested in only reading more about the service I offer for online purchases scroll down to the point on conclusion, although reading this whole article will give you a clearer insight.
How to shop online from Kenya
I came to write this article after an ordeal I had with a client’s package. A client ordered an item. They were just simple glasses. So I kept checking my mail box, until I finally found a green paper. The paper did not have much written on it, except the words “150 KSH” which were written in bold. Going to claim my parcel at my post office I was redirected to go to the post office where parcels that have to pass through customs are stored. It left me wondering, “this glasses, how sophisticated could they have been…”
I took the walk and headed to the post office. Only to my disappointment it was 13:30 hrs, and being a government office they were closed for lunch. At 14:00 hrs I headed back there. I met a few people who were also collecting their parcels. Most of them had no idea why they were redirected there. Keep reading this article, so that you will not be as clueless as them or myself. On reaching the post office for Customs, which is the post office located opposite Times Tower, I made my way to 2nd floor which is the customs department. The room, is a wide and quite large with a lot of free empty space, with several parcels laying around. It’s the place where all parcels that pass through customs are stored.
So what happens?
Once you reach the 2nd floor there are few people waiting to receive your card. The place is not normally packed, as their few people receiving parcels there at any time of day. Once you give the green card you carried from your post office box your parcel is located and brought to you. For them to give you your parcel, you must have your National Id. Hence you have to make sure the parcel is under your name. Once you get your parcel, you have to open it. Your privacy goes out the window, as they have to inspect your item, and as well value your item so that they can add tax.
This whole idea of tax I think it just started with the recent tax increment that saw Kenyan’s cry due to the absurd increase in the price of basic commodities such as milk. The value of milk increased drastically and almost doubled. Previously I would receive a parcel, and I never heard to go through the whole process of going to 2nd floor, so probably all that bureaucracy is due to the increment in tax.
They check the package for a price tag. If your package doesn’t have a price tag they ask you to tell them the price of the item. I find this quite unprofessional as they will calculate your tax based on the price you tell them, whether it’s false or not. However you definitely cannot quote an extremely low price of an item that clearly looks expensive. Once they have the price, they punch their calculators and tell you your total tax you have to pay.
The shocking truth
I was unable to find out how much they add as tax, however though I was able to estimate. They charge insanely high for tax. There was some one there who bought several items totaling to $20 USD. When they calculate the tax, they guy ended up paying about $8 USD for tax. So in total his purchase ended up increasing by $8 USD on landing to Kenya.
A Lady was sent a gift from the UK. That was what I could gather. They were simple Lady’s bras (they open everything in the open, so anyone can see your parcel). However the bra’s is not the eye of this example it’s the tax that she was imposed. On the package the bra’s was written 70 Euros, which is about 8,170 KSH shilling. It wasn’t clear whether that was a typing error or not, however that is the price they used. The people at the customs were looking at her with huge smiles as they knew they were going to make a kill on the tax the lady will have to pay. They punched their calculators and confidently told the lady that she had to pay 3,800 Ksh (approximately) for tax. The lady looked at them with shock. I could tell she was perplexed and perturbed at the mere sound of that tax amount. She tried to argue her case that she was sent for the parcel as a gift by her family member in the UK, but well, tax is tax “Lazima tulipe ushuru” (we must pay tax). So the lady just told them, you guys just pack this parcel I will pick it later when I have that money. I really doubt if she would go back and pick it. It doesn’t make sense paying for gift.
I was fortunate enough that the person I was dealing with was courteous to me and did not impose tax on the glasses. He just said “hakuna haja nikulipishe na unaenda kujienjoy” (there is no need for me to charge you and you are going to enjoy yourself”. However I had to pay 150 ksh, this was due to the handling fees. If your package goes through customs an automatic fee of 150 ksh is imposed.
I came to a number of conclusions
- The tax imposed is almost half the amount of the item purchased
- The taxation of purchases and this absurd high tax is probably due to the recent tax increment of tax passed out this year.
- Most of the items that are frequently taxed are books, clothing and shoes.
- If you get a good person to handle your package you can easily talk your way out of paying the tax.
- If you purchase an item online and it’s send in an envelope it doesn’t go through customs, it however comes straight to your mail box. Items that go through customs are those ones packaged in box; items that cannot be packaged in an envelope.
Purchasing items online is still amazing. For small items you will easily get them in your mail box. I mostly purchase from ebay. I learnt that if you purchase items from the uk ebay store (ebay.co.uk) and not the general ebay store (ebay.com) your item will arrive very quickly. I had a client’s item arrive in just 4 days which was record time.
Get to shopping online, as most of those small items are usually over-priced in Kenya. The tax increment will hopefully reduce and we will not be faced with absurd high taxes.
The facilitation fees I added for the service of purchasing items is due to the fare and time spent in checking for the package.
The tax amount cannot be added to the Online Calculator as this amount is calculated once your item arrives. It depends on whether your item was sent as a letter (envelope) or a parcel. Tax may be imposed and sometimes not imposed. I strive to provide Excellency and honesty and if your item is not taxed I will not give you some random tax amount. However if it’s taxed you will have to pay the tax amount.
Online shopping has a lot of information, hence there are several posts on this
Read Part 1 of shopping online. that explains more on shipping, and gives a basic overview.
Read Part 3 of online shopping , that tells you why you should do online shopping and gives you examples of some of the items purchased and tips on good online shopping.
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