Taxman urges consumers to boycott products without tax stamps

Emmanuel Kofi Nti, middle, flanked by his technical advisors

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has urged consumers to boycott products that do not bear its recently introduced tax stamps, as a means of forcing manufacturers and importers to comply with the new policy.

The authority has also cautioned wholesalers, distributors and retailers of products listed to be sold with the tax stamp affixed to them, to refrain from purchasing from non-complying manufacturers and importers.

Apart from ensuring government rakes in full revenues from exercisable beverages and bottled water, among other products, the tax stamps are meant to set genuine products apart from fake ones and protect public health.

Addressing journalists in Kumasi, Commissioner General of the GRA Emmanuel Kofi Nti said: “Domestic manufacturers who, as it were, have adopted a wait and see attitude despite the series of stakeholder meetings and engagements since 2013, must begin to revise their notes. GRA will enforce the law to the letter”.

The Excise Tax Stamp is a specially-designed digital stamp with security features expected to be affixed on specified excisable goods, whether locally manufactured or imported, to show that taxes and duties have been paid or will be paid on them.

Among other objectives, the policy is meant to control the importation and local production of excisable goods for revenue purposes; check illicit trading, smuggling and counterfeiting of excisable products; protect and increase tax revenue, among others.

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Affected products include cigarettes and other tobacco products; alcoholic beverages including spirits – whether bottled, canned, contained in kegs for sale or packaged in any other form; and bottled water.

Others are non-alcoholic carbonated beverages and any other excisable product prescribed by the Minister of Finance.

The Commissioner General of GRA is unequivocal that implementation of the excise tax stamp does not mean the introduction of any new tax.

“Rather, the tax stamp is a new way of administering the already-existing Excise Tax. The tax stamp will rather enable GRA to effectively monitor payment of Excise Tax to ensure that the correct quantum of tax is paid,” he stated.

The Excise Tax Stamp Act 2013, Act 873, was passed in 2013 and launched in 2017, with enforcement at the ports slated for January 1, 2018, while enforcement at the point of sale was scheduled for March 1, 2018.

The first phase of the enforcement exercise, according to the GRA, focused on the removal of goods without the stamp from shelves.

In line with this, a team from the GRA – joined by some journalists, visited a number of shops including Shoprite and Game, both at the Kumasi City Mall.

Notwithstanding an earlier visit by the GRA to these two places, some products without the excise tax stamp were still on display and being sold at the time of this visit.

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Officials of the GRA ordered that the products be removed from the shelves and urged the managers of the two major retail outlets to comply with the law.

At one of the factories – Obibini Company Limited, which produces alcoholic beverages and bottled water – there were no officials on site to respond to queries as to why products at the factory did not have the tax stamps.

A Technical Advisor to the Commissioner General, Sam Kwasi Yenkyira, observed at the end of the inspection exercise that compliance was ‘selected’.

Given that the exercise is still part of the first-phase in enforcing compliance, he urged that manufacturers and importers obtain and affix the stamps before their products are sent to the market. Failure to observe this, he stated, will lead to seizure of products and imposition of fines.

According to the GRA, the second-phase of the enforcement exercise will involve seizure of such products without tax stamps as well as the imposition of penalties.

Three months after the law coming into force (from March), any specified excisable product found displayed without the tax stamp will be liable to seizure and the person selling/distributing or displaying the product shall be liable to a fine not exceeding three hundred percent of the duty involved, or a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or both.

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