New bill to enable GRA get offshore information on tax evaders

A new bill has been laid before parliament to enable the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) exchange information with other tax administrations in the world, regarding certain financial accounts of entities or individuals, in a bid to curb tax evasion.

The bill is named Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information, and was presented to Parliament by Deputy Finance Minister, Kweku Kwarteng, who indicated that critical to the fight against tax evasion is cooperation among tax administrations and a key aspect of that co-operation is exchange of information.

According a memorandum accompanying the bill, the new global standard has led to the development of model of automatic exchange of financial account information referred to as the Common Reporting Standard allowing for jurisdictions to automatically exchange financial account information with their exchange partners.

The object of the Bill is to provide a legal framework for the implementation of the Common Reporting Standard approved by the Council of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on July 15, 2014.

The Bill has been referred to the Finance Committee for consideration and its report will, subsequently, be presented to Parliament for debate and approval.

It is the outcome of a global effort in combating offshore tax evasion and in improving transparency through the development of a platform multilateral exchange of information.

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Furthermore, the Bill will seek to implement the common reporting standards approved by Council of the OECD, which designates the Commissioner General as the competent authority to ensure an improved international tax compliance by imposing on financial institutions an obligation to report information regarding certain financial accounts of an individual or an entity to the GRA.

Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, explained the rationale behind the bill.

“So, now, if l hold an account in the US, by passing this one for exchange of information, we can write to tax authorities in the US to furnish us with the account details of this Ghanaian.  In the same way, by passing this, if there is a foreigner who has an account here and the foreign authorities want to find out they could also write to the authorities.

So, if you have concealed any information anywhere or if you are supposed to be paying taxes and then we can’t identify your financial status, it then makes it important to pass this bill,” he told B&FT in an interview.

The memorandum accompanying the Bill also states that vast amounts of money are kept offshore and go untaxed to the extent that taxpayers fail to comply with tax obligations in their home jurisdiction.

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