Kenyan Imports and IDF

In the same way that in the UK all imports and exports are lodged electronically on the CHIEF system, in Kenya the same procedure is followed on the Simba 2005 system.  To make an electronic submission on Simba 2005 means that the importer needs to be registered with Kenyan Customs to do so.  However, very few organisations are prepared to go down this path, which means that the electronic submissions for imports and exports are usually carried out by freight forwarders and clearance agents.

Hence the usual procedure for an import is that the import agent will lodge the import on the Simba 2005 system, pay the required duties and taxes and present all relevant documents to Customs to pass the entry.  However, the clearance agent is not normally responsible for obtaining the IDF (Import Declaration Fee) licence.

Import Declaration Fee (IDF)
Although there are some exemptions, most items imported into Kenya will be subject to the IDF tax.  The importer needs to identify if their goods are liable to this tax and, if so, are responsible for paying it and obtaining the relevant IDF licence prior to importing any goods into Kenya.  The IDF is normally charged at 2.25% of the CIF/CIP value of the goods, with a minimum value of 5,000 Kenyan Shillings payable.  This is a tax which is separate from and additional to, any other tax which might also be charged on the import, such as duty, excise and VAT.

The importer must apply for, complete the relevant forms and obtain an IDF before the goods are imported.  Forms are issued by the Kenya Revenue Authority Customs and Excise Department and the details that must be completed are the importer, consignee (who is often the same organisation as the importer), exporter and consignor (who is often the same organisation as the exporter) details, all consisting of the name, address and contact details of all these different parties.  Please note that if the IDF states Party A as being the exporter, and the goods are shipped from Party B (for whatever reason), then there will be a serious problem on import since the export documentation MUST match the details on the corresponding IDF.

The importer must also complete the Goods value part of the IDF application form, which includes details such as currency, exchange rates with the Kenyan shilling, the FOB value, the CIF/CIP value and the Incoterm that the goods will be shipped under.  The form must be signed and dated by someone authorised to do so in the importing organisation.  If the shipment is under USD 1,000 in value then no advance IDF needs to be processed.

Once the form is submitted to Kenyan Customs they will assess the duty payable depending on the value of the item(s) and the duty rate applicable and request that the IDF tax is paid. This is a tax which is payable to the Kenyan Government.

Different IDF charges
The IDF chargeable can vary for different items.  On cars, for example, it is 2.25%, but the import duty is 25%, the Excise Duty is 20% and the VAT is 16% and the total cost is based on the cumulative value of these taxes charged in that order.  Please also note that cars older than 8 years from Date of Manufacture (DOM), if imported into Kenya, will be treated as contraband and seized by the authorities.  Also, no left hand drive cars are permitted to be imported into Kenya either.

New computers will have a charge of 2.25% of the CIF value charged, but at the present time there is no additional duty charged.  New printers, on the other hand, will have the 2.25% IDF, plus a 10% duty and 16% VAT charge.  Used computer equipment, however, has an IDF of 2025% plus a duty charge of 25%.

It is, therefore, very important to check on the IDF as well as the duty and VAT rates when exporting or importing into Kenya.

Some goods also require quality inspection by agencies such as Intertek or SGS before they leave the country of export, since the Kenya Bureau of Standards does require that a number of items have a Conformity Certificate before they can be imported into Kenya.  Other departments, such as the Public Health Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Mines and Geology Department can also require specialist certificates for various items.

Maria Narancic from Point to Point Export Services is an independent international trade adviser who assists organisations world wide with their international trade projects, documentation, Documentary Credits and import/export training.  She is based in the United Kingdom.  If you require any further assistance with the subject matter mentioned above, please do contact us by e-mail on or check out other international trade articles on the Point to Point Export Services website at


1 Comment

  1. Hallo,

    Thank you for thus information that you’ve provided.if I may ask; what information can you add on the importation of machines such as a Piercing Machine/ Grundomat/thrustboring machine/directional drilling machine?

    I had paid for one and came to learn about IDF later and am trying to follow up in the same. Can you please suffice me with details on what I am supposed to do?

    Kind regards
    Githinji Mwaniki

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