In a recent interview, Embakasi East Member of Parliament, Babu Owino, voiced concerns over a proposed legislative measure aimed at imposing a tax on women’s hair extensions and wigs. The MP contends that such a move could potentially undermine Kenya’s flourishing tourism industry.
Owino argued that the allure of wigs and hair extensions, often donned by Kenyan women, plays a crucial role in drawing tourists to the country. Consequently, he believes, heavy taxation on these items could have far-reaching implications for the beauty of women and subsequently the tourism industry.
The proposed legislation, known as the Finance Bill 2023, goes beyond wigs and hair extensions. It also seeks to impose levies on human hair, artificial nails, eyelashes, and hair switches. The proposal could lead to significant price hikes for these beauty products, making them less accessible for consumers.
Owino, a staunch critic of the incumbent administration led by President William Ruto, took a jab at the government’s taxation policies. “A government that burdens our women with taxes is not serving its people well. Real leadership shouldn’t involve exploiting women, particularly when they use these beauty products to attract tourism, which is one of our major economic drivers,” he argued.
He added, “While citizens are being taxed for their clothing, the government simultaneously criminalizes nudity. It seems as though everything is being taxed – food, clothing, education, healthcare, and housing. The only thing left untaxed seems to be oxygen.”
The beauty industry, a vital sector in Kenya, could be facing a double whammy if the proposed taxation measures come into effect. In addition to the product-specific taxes, the industry is also bracing for an increase in the excise stamp charges for beauty and cosmetic products. The proposed amendment could see the charges skyrocket from Sh0.6 to Sh2.5 per stamp, marking a 316% increase.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) plans to implement the new excise stamps for these products starting July 1, as stated in the Excise Duty (Excisable Goods Management System- EGMS) (Amendment) Regulations, 2023, published earlier this year.
Over the past decade, Kenya’s beauty industry has witnessed significant growth, with an increase of over Sh10 billion, as more Kenyans embrace the use of makeup and other beauty products. However, the proposed tax changes could potentially stymie this growth trajectory.