President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said one critical civic responsibility Ghanaians had not imbibed since the 4th Republican dispensation has been regular payment of taxes.
President Akufo-Addo added that the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio of 14.3% compares unfavourably with its peers the world over.
The average tax-to-GDP ratio in West Africa is 18%, and the recommended ratio for the ECOWAS Member States is at least 20%. The average for OECD countries is 34%.
President Akufo-Addo said it was no wonder that Americans, Germans, French, Japanese and British, amongst others, could readily find the means to fund their development, particularly their infrastructural, whereas we are constantly struggling to do the same.
Delivering the keynote address on Monday, 2021, at the Ghana Bar Association Conference in Bolgatanga, President Akufo-Addo said there was an urgent need to significantly enhance the country’s domestic revenue mobilisation capability to realise its development potential.
He said that that would enable the government to create opportunities for the vibrant and dynamic youth and deliver improved livelihoods for the entire citizens.
President Akufo-Addo indicated that the necessity for increased mobilisation of resources for national development was crucial, especially as there were critical needs in all sectors in all parts of the country.
“Not too far from where we are gathered, torrential rains have caused havoc and washed away bridges and roads. Farms have been destroyed, and investments have disappeared under floodwaters,” he stated.
Those, the President indicated, were just new additions to an already difficult situation of a long list of infrastructural deficits that required a lot of money for their elimination.
He said, “COVID-19 has brought extra devastation to the country’s fragile economies, which had not ended and continues to cause ravages in the country’s economy.
“The only certainty we do have is that we need a lot of resources to engender the rebuilding of the economy,” hence Government’s Ghana CARES ‘Obaatampa’ Programme, which seeks to raise GH¢100 billion from both public and private sectors to finance the revitalisation of our post-COVID economy.
President Akufo-Addo expressed gladness that the Ghana Bar Association had decided to enlist the undoubted strength of lawyers to help mobilise resources through taxation.
He stressed that “we have work to do to convince the people of Ghana that, if we are to get the developments that we all crave, then paying taxes must become a regular and unquestioning feature of our lives.”
President Akufo-Addo urged the outgoing President of the Bar, Anthony Forson Jnr, to encourage Bar members to pay their taxes.
“The record of lawyers in paying taxes has been historically poor. It is unfortunate, but a most unpleasant fact, that members of the professions in our country have not been known to set a good example when it comes to paying taxes.
They appear to think that being members of the learned professions put them above complying with everyday civic duties, like paying taxes. It is embarrassing that lawyers are often at the top of the list of those who flout our tax laws and use their expertise to avoid paying taxes,” he stressed.
The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) recently made a startling revelation that over 60,000 professionals, including lawyers, accountants, doctors, engineers, surveyors, architects, do not pay taxes.
President warned persons, including lawyers who evade taxes, to move swiftly to regularise their tax obligations before the GRA moves to crack the whip.
President Akufo-Addo said, before 2017, only 750,000 people were registered with GRA and with Tax Identification Numbers (TINs).
As a result of the effective roll-out of the National Identification Card, spearheaded by the National Identification Authority (NIA), which has been integrated with GRA to form the TIN, we now have a taxable population of some 15.5 million people in just four years.
The government, the President indicated, had introduced other measures to make it easy for institutions and individual taxpayers to be compliant — Revenue Assurance and Compliance Enforcement (RACE), Ghana.gov, paperless port, the National ID (GhanaCard), Digital Property and Address System, and cashless system.
These policy interventions are running smoothly, and he urged members of the Bar to take advantage of these innovations to regularise their tax affairs and advise their clients to do the same.
The President said the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) at the country’s ports had been introduced to facilitate trade and block revenue leakages, stating that it was paying dividends despite the initial opposition of vested interests.
“Customs revenue, prior to the implementation of ICUMS, for the period June 2019 to May 2020, stood at GH¢11.25 billion. Between June 2020, the start of ICUMS, and May 2021, teething challenges, ill-considered propaganda and the impact of COVID-19 on global trade notwithstanding, customs revenue has increased by 27.6% to GH¢14.36 billion,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo said the government was exploring data warehousing, data matching, and artificial intelligence to identify tax defaulters.
“Whilst government narrows the fiscal gap, by implementing targeted revenue-generating initiatives, much is also expected from taxpayers to be responsive in equal measure for the speedy, full realisation of moving Ghana beyond aid.”
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD