The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been urged to devise measures that will help remove all barriers so as to ease payment of taxes by citizens and broaden the country’s tax net.
A Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei Asare, officially launching the 2018 National Tax Campaign to promote voluntary tax payment within the informal sector said: “I urge GRA to remove all the barriers and improve on the ease of paying taxes by citizens, in so doing we can rope-in a lot of people by widening the tax net”.
Government missed its revenue target for the first five months of the year by GH¢1.4billion, pulling in GH¢17.3billion against a target of GH¢18.8billion. The GRA has been tasked to collect revenue targetted at over GH¢39billion for the 2018 fiscal year.
Speaking under the theme #OurTaxesOurFuture, aimed at deepening and sustaining education on the significance and benefit of tax payment for continuous national development, Ms. Asare explained that an increased revenue performance and contribution from the large informal sector will help government to greatly expand investment and infrastructure, as well as provide funding for the main social intervention programme.
“Currently, as we speak, we have about 6 million people who are supposed to be on the tax net – but we have only 1.5 people paying taxes regularly, and of this the informal sector contributes just 200 thousand of the 1.5 million. This gap must be bridged at all costs, so we must do everything possible to change this situation if we are to make any headway in developing Ghana. For GRA, in as much as we encourage the informal sector to contribute their quota, we must also make paying taxes easier.”
Ms. Asare admonished the general public not to neglect their civic responsibilities, as their taxes will go a long way in helping shape the country’s economy.
“The culture of impunity with which we neglect our civic duty of paying taxes must cease if we are to achieve our objective and also move Ghana Beyond Aid. Government on its part will also support GRA to hold tax-evaders accountable.
“We want to encourage all of us to do our civic duty and pay our taxes so that government gets more funding for the needed infrastructure as well as social intervention programmes. So, I therefore urge all Ghanaians to embrace the GRA’s call for a change in our attitude toward issues on taxes,” she said.
Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, the Commissioner-General of GRA, emphasised that the tax campaign is aimed at: increasing awareness among Ghanaians on tax issues; enhancing their understanding and appreciation of the importance of taxes; and their benefits to national development.
He indicated that the focus this year will be on the informal sector because it is the largest in terms of operators – constituting about 70 percent of the national economy, though its contribution to revenue stands at about two percent.
“I believe we all recognise the fact that without contributions from the citizenry in the form of tax payments, the good intentions of government will come to naught,” he said.
Mr. Nti stated that the six-month-long campaign will help to significantly change and affect peoples’ attitudes to improve voluntary compliance and greatly expand the tax net – adding that the campaign is going to be a multifaceted one, with the GRA collaborating with organisations such as the National Commission for Civic Education, Information Services Department and the media to reach as many Ghanaians as possible.
He appealed for cooperation from Ghanaians, and also for tax defaulters to settle outstanding tax liabilities; increased voluntary compliance in terms of tax payments and filing of returns; and the provision of relevant information about unknown and hidden businesses.
“We believe that with the public’s cooperation, GRA will ultimately achieve a significant increase in revenue collection,” he said.
Mr. Nti reiterated the Authority’s intention of beginning the process of naming, shaming and prosecuting tax debtors who are found to be wanting.
“As part of our vision to see a significant uplift in revenue performance in the next two years, I wish to make it clear that it is not business as usual at GRA as perceived by the public at large.
“With the tax amnesty opportunity offered by GRA to enable tax offenders regularise their tax affairs and come clean having ended, GRA will now bite – and bite hard. We will pretty soon embark on the naming and shaming as well as prosecuting tax debtors. I therefore wish to caution the public to be law-abiding and comply fully with the tax laws,” Mr. Nti stated.