… bemoans GRA-Controller laxity
For the past five years no civil servant has been able to enjoy any tax relief, even though several of them have duly presented the required documentation to enjoy the reliefs as stipulated by law, Executive Secretary of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association, Ghana (CLOGSAG), Isaac Bampoe Addo, has lamented.
Several petitions to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) to rectify the abnormality have been treated with laxity, and civil servants continue to be at a disadvantage, he stated.
“We don’t really know what the issue is; we have sent those tax relief forms to GRA. They get authorised and forwarded to the Controller for processing, but we don’t get the reliefs. The issue is that as it stands now, the Controller and GRA have to sort things out.
“In this year’s budget, government announced improved reliefs for workers; but unfortunately, our members are not enjoying them. CLOGSAG not only asks for salary increases but also pushes for some of these reliefs, so that they will help cushion the workers,” Mr. Bampoe Addo told the B&FT after a one-day workshop on personal income returns.
Tax reliefs is a government programme or policy initiative designed to reduce the amount of taxes paid by individuals or businesses. It may be a universal tax-cut or a programme that benefits a specific group of taxpayers, or bolsters a particular goal of government.
In Ghana, some personal tax reliefs advertised by the GRA include Marriage/Responsibility, Child Education, Educational, Mortgage, and Old Age reliefs. The marriage/responsibility relief grants up to GH¢1,200 per year to a resident individual who takes care of his wife or her husband, or takes care of at least two children.
The Child Education Relief grants up to GH¢600 per child per year to a resident individual who pays his or her child’s school fees for a maximum of three children, while educational relief grants are up to GH¢2,000 per year for the duration of studies if that person undergoes training to update his/her professional, technical or vocational skills or knowledge.
Old age relief grants up to GH¢1,500 per year to persons who are 60 years and above, while mortgage interest relief is granted based on the amount of qualifying mortgage interest that you pay in a given tax year for your principal private residence – and this relief can be enjoyed for only one building.
CLOGSAG said its members have applied for one or more of these reliefs but is yet to benefit, and as a result has cautioned that the association will be forced to make a drastic decision if the state-bodies in charge do not sit up and rectify the issues.
Meanwhile, Risk Assessment officer at the CAGD Muniru Alhassan told this Paper that it would be difficult to exempt civil servants from enjoying tax reliefs if the GRA presents required documents to the department. “The CAGD is a facilitator of the payroll. We have the human resource management information system that is maintained at the MDA levels, and the MDAs are supposed to get the entries right.
“With GRA, they are supposed to present the pink sheet (tax relief documents) to the Controller; and when the pink sheet is presented and they are well filled-out and approved, the Controller goes ahead to do the entries and then the employees could benefit. But if the forms are not well filled-out, the CAGD cannot be blamed,” he said.
He recommended that the GRA should digitise the forms so they are filled online and Controller can easily give its approval.
Head of Compliance and Debt Management-Office of the Deputy Commissioner of GRA, Victor Yao Akogo, agreed with moving the manual filling of tax relief forms to a digitised system to ensure efficiency.
“What I have observed is that as a result of manually filing for relief, controllers might not have obtained the identification number of those who have applied for the relief. They have not been able to key it into their system. Basically, that is their challenge. I believe that going forward we will try to improve the system by digitising or automating our system. This issue will be resolved, because when they use a software to file the returns it will be easier for controllers to capture the data and grant the relief to them,” Mr. Akogo told the B&FT.