Wildlife conservation groups and those involved in private conservancies in Kenya, crucially important to maintaining biodiversity and supporting government policies of adding private land for the purpose of protecting threatened species like rhinos, are bracing for the worst come 2012, as new tax demands appear on the horizon.
The new VAT Act in Kenya reportedly no longer recognizes the exemptions conservancies enjoyed in regard of their fees raised on entry, all of which are going directly to support recurrent and development expenditures such private ventures are faced with and are struggling to meet, and should indeed the taxman have its way, the cost of getting into such conservancies may well have to be raised by as much as 20 percent to cater for the tax liabilities the new law has created.
Conservationists and the affected conservancies have made a last minute appeal to request the past exemption to continue but are quietly resigned in the fact that doing conservation work seems to be a taxable activity too these days. In reality, it seems counterproductive to punish private conservation efforts with added taxation measures, as the raised fees are likely to impact on visitors numbers. Tour operators will undoubtedly reflect any raised fees in their safari costs and individual travelers, Kenyans and expatriates alike, may not come in as large numbers as they did in the past, if suddenly they have to cough up the VAT element too. But whenever did the tax mans demands make sense, or laws for that matter.