The automation of property tax and its use for the acquisition of passports, payment of school fees, government scholarship, SIM card registration and vehicle registration would go a long way to help in targetted development.
Africa’s towns and cities’ growth rate has outpaced the activities of local authorities regarding management, infrastructure and financing. This has made the majority of African towns and cities face governance crises. Accordingly, the capability and capacity of urban local government to provide basic services to a growing population have entered into the core of the development debate (Ayitey et al., 2013).
Property tax in Ghana, which is popularly called Property rate, is considered as the annual payment made by property owners through local government or the Metropolitan, Municipal District Chief Executives or District Chief Executives of their area to the Ghana Revenue Service (GRA). Properties under consideration are tangible real estate, houses, office buildings and properties that are rented out. The rate ranges from 0.5% to 3% of the property’s estimated cost, and according to classification of the location where the building is situated.
In 1988, Ghana implemented comprehensive reform in its local governance structure and adopted decentralisation as an alternative development strategy. This strategy included political, administrative and fiscal decentralisation and aimed to promote effective and efficient governance at the local level, which gave power to the local levels to collect property rates. (Ayee, 2008)
Dadson et al. (2015) in their paper titled ‘Determinants of property rate default: evidence from the Ashanti Region, Ghana’, made it clear that a lot of property owners do not pay property rate because they are not aware; and those who are aware do not pay because they have no idea of where to make payment.
Accordingly, (Kuusaana, 2015) in his paper ‘Property rating potentials and hurdles: what can be done to boost property rating in Ghana?’ using Wa Municipality as a case study, was able to identify that the major constraints to property tax are poor Information Systems Infrastructure, non-execution of the law, political meddling, inadequate budget for routine activities, inadequate staffing and inadequate technical staffing.
According to a case study conducted at Offinso Municipality, it has been proven that the inability for collectors to reach a wider area, as well as inadequate collection modes and poor perception of the citizenry regarding the collection of property rates, has had adverse effects on property rate administration (Addai Boamah & Okrah, 2016).
As has been suggested by (Kuusaana, 2015), government should go for full automation in the collection of property tax in the country. This has the advantage of allowing authorities be able to fully account for all monies collected from the populace. Since the collection base will be widened, it will increase the revenue – which will help local authorities in carrying out their activities.
The distribution of facilities has been skewed because there is no proper view of the number of households in any locality. As such, only locations endowed with prominent personalities are considered. Automating property tax will allow the MMDCEs and DCEs to be able to plan very well and ensure fair distribution of facilities in their operational zones.
According to the annual crime statistics from the Ghana Police Service 2015, a total of 186,434 complaints were received. The automation of property tax will help in identifying the occupants of every household in any locality, which has the potential to help clamp down on people with questionable behaviour.
For example, if the receipt for the property tax paid is made a requirement when registering a SIM card, it will help identify the household where the person is coming from – which will allow for easy identification of deviants in the community. To add to this, current cybercrime activities will be curtailed since upon reporting the telecommunication companies will be able to easily identify the locality where the crime happened.
Automating property rates and making it a requirement for vehicle registration will help in easily tracking owners of vehicles in the country. Automating property tax and making it a requirement, again, in passport acquisition will help in easily identifying the district, the area within the district where the individual is coming from based on the codes that will be proposed.
Automating property tax has the potential of helping to learn the number of people living in any locality. This is going to reduce the task of population and housing census units, because with the click of a button the total number of houses in a locality is known.
To add to these, property tax automation as a requirement in sourcing for government scholarship will help in identifying the locality an applicant is applying from.
Activities of the Lands Commission play a vital role in the proper structuring and development of any country. In view of this, the automation of property tax will help the unit in identifying occupants of unauthorised locations. This is because every location has its Global Positioning System (GPS) code. Again, this will help the unit to identify highly populated zones and promote research into all aspects of land ownership, tenure and operations of the land market and land development process. The unit will also be able to impose and collect all levies, fees, charges for services rendered, and establish and maintain a comprehensive land information system.
Property tax automation will help for easy investigation of engagement made by the people in a locality. This is feasible since payment of the property tax is assessed as a percentage of a property’s value. This may relate to the annual rental value of the property or its capital value. As such, high-value properties will be equivalent to the financial status of the occupants of such a locality. Knowing these will help the locality in identifying the developmental needs of such an area.
In consideration of the named views, it will be very advantageous to automate the property tax system in Ghana since it will be of immense benefit to the citizens, the District and Municipal Assemblies, the Regional Coordinating Council and the central government in increasing the revenue base, and also properly and fairly distribute facilities.
The writer is a lecturer at the Sunyani Technical University (Computer Science Department). 0249623114.
Annual crime statistics (2015). Statistics & information technology unit (situ), CID headquarters, accra.
Awunyo-Vitor, D., Osae, E. O., & Donani, S. (2015). Determinants of Property rate default: evidence from the Ashanti Region, Ghana. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, (16), 4494.
Ayee, J.R.A. (2008). The balance sheet of decentralisation in Ghana. In S Fumihiko (Ed.) Foundations for local governance decentralization in comparative perspective.
Boamah, N. A. & Okrah, M. (2016). Challenges to property rate administration in the Offinso South Municipality, Ghana. International Journal of Public Administration, 39(11), 1–9.
Kuusaana, E.D. (2015), “Property rating potentials and hurdles: what can be done to boost property rating in Ghana?” Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, Nos 16/17, pp. 204-223.