Keroche Breweries has threatened to lay off at least 250 employees over a Ksh322 million tax row with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) that has affected its operations.
In a press statement on Friday, Keroche CEO Tabitha Karanja said efforts to strike a fresh deal with the taxman on the payment of the tax arrears had proved futile.
Tabitha said the company had tried in vain to have an audience with KRA Commissioner General James Githii Mburu.
The Naivasha-based brewer has remained closed since February 1, 2022, after a back and forth with KRA.
The CEO says the plant has 2 Million litres of beer worth about Ksh512 Million in their tanks which now requires Ksh30 Million monthly to maintain.
She said the company is considering draining all the beer and laying off over 250 direct employees if the government doesn’t intervene within the next seven days.
“The recent closure by KRA has drained all our resources and unfortunately if nothing is done in the next seven days, we will be forced to drain down all the beer and lay down over 250 direct employees and thousands within our nationwide distribution network,” she said.
In her Statement, Karanja revealed that KRA had instructed banks not to issue loans to Keroche, hence frustrating efforts to run the company.
She urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and end the standoff to avoid further losses.
She wants the brewer allowed to continue with its operations to enable the company meet its obligations as well as repay the pending amount.
Karanja also wants KRA to give the company a 12 months grace period on the taxes in arrears.
While decrying state harassment, the businesswoman who has announced a bid for the Nakuru senator seat in the August elections, appealed to Parliament to formulate laws that extensively protect and cushion local enterprises.
“On 31st January 2022, KRA closed the plant once again. In such circumstances of operating less than a week, it was impossible for us to raise the amount of money KRA was demanding. We managed to make a further payment of Ksh2.5 Million within the short period we were in operation.
“At this point, they refused to accept further negotiations and the office of the Commissioner-Domestic Taxes Department, advised us that their hands were tied and we should seek support from the office of the Commissioner-General. Since then we have been trying to reach and even going to his office but we have been unable to reach him for his intervention,” she said.
Tabitha and her husband Joseph Karanja have for years been embroiled in a tax dispute with KRA.
The Keroche Breweries founders were arrested in August 2019 over Ksh14 billion tax evasion claims before they were later freed on bail amid concerns from members of the public.
The company was accused of evading payment of Sh12.34 billion VAT for stamps (Sh329.4 million), Crescent Vodka (Sh135.4 million) among other products.