Letter from Africa: How to get Ghanaians to pay their taxes

A woman holds on 3 July 2007 in Accra moneySymbol copyright
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In our sequence of letters from African writers, Ghanaian journalist Elizabeth Ohene says the federal government will have to ban funerals for individuals who fail to pay taxes.

There’s a announcing, attributed to American founding father Benjamin Franklin, that there are handiest two certainties in existence: dying and taxes.

Over right here in Ghana, we settle for the dying bit and make a large deal of it, however we don’t seem to be too sure in regards to the taxes.

We do not like paying taxes and the tax other people themselves have no longer been specifically eager about accumulating taxes from us. So all of us amble on and faux to be working and dwelling in a contemporary state.

I do know I’ve mentioned it continuously however it’s value repeating that it’s somewhat imaginable for an individual to be born, lead a complete existence, die and be buried on this nation, and there will probably be no list anyplace to turn that this kind of individual ever existed.

This aversion to record-keeping makes it simple to keep away from the taxman, for those who have been so minded.

Our Vice-President Muhamadu Bawumia has taken it upon himself to modify us right into a country that respects record-keeping and we’re having a troublesome time maintaining with all of the adjustments he’s pushing: virtual addresses for our houses, Nationwide Identity Playing cards, paperless port operations, biometric this and biometric that and, in fact, a resolution to show us into taxpayers.

The figures, for what they’re value, make alarming studying. There are virtually 30 million Ghanaians, however just one.five million are registered to pay taxes and, it sounds as if, simply 1.three million of them if truth be told pay source of revenue tax.

However all of us call for services and products from the federal government, and we’re very loud in relating to ourselves as taxpayers.

Medical doctors threatened

For a long time, makes an attempt were made to extend the tax base and get extra other people to pay taxes however by some means it hasn’t ever labored. Appeals, public schooling messages and threats all appear to fall on deaf ears.

Then the concept that of the Tax Identity Quantity (TIN) hit Ghana.

Because the announcing is going, determined eventualities require determined treatments and the government made up our minds to introduce some measures to make us, reluctant Ghanaian taxpayers, exchange our techniques.

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The casual sector’s contribution to tax income quantities to two%. the federal government says

Get a TIN quantity or you’re going to get into some dreadful hassle with the government, we have been advised.

Two years in the past, in November 2016, it used to be introduced that from January 2017, pros similar to docs, attorneys and surveyors would no longer have the ability to renew their licences with no TIN.

Challenging bribes

And nobody could be given a tax clearance certificates to procedure land name deeds, or do trade with any executive establishment, with no TIN.

Keep in mind that, January 2017 got here and not anything modified very a lot. So, much more drastic measures have been presented.


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You will be unable to transparent items from the port, open a checking account, record a case on the courts, behavior any trade with any executive company, download a passport or a drivers’ licence or sign up a automobile until you will have a TIN.

I assumed that will truly do the trick, however the take-up fee stays very low, consistent with the Ghana Earnings Authority (GRA).

Those that are minded to pay their taxes bitch that the method of having a TIN, which is meant to be painless and cost-free, has been fraught with unnecessary forms and corruption, some degree continuously made on social media.

When the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, learn his contemporary funds commentary, it dawned on us all that much more drastic and cutting edge techniques have been being discovered to make us all join a TIN and to attract extra other people into the tax bracket.

Essentially the most contentious used to be the recommendation that social interventions by way of the federal government could be connected to the ownership of a TIN.

In different phrases, you may no longer have the ability to get right of entry to unfastened well being care or enrol your youngsters without spending a dime secondary college until you will have a TIN.

‘Superbly mixing dying and taxes’

However for the reason that presentation of the funds, executive officers seem to be backing down from the recommendation that the preferred Loose Senior Prime Faculty programme may well be connected to having a TIN.

Social media, in fact, is having a box day, dreaming up probably the most outrageous issues you can not do in Ghana with no TIN.

Mr Ofori-Atta is it sounds as if advising Ghanaian girls to not settle for proposals from males with no TIN. They’re additionally linking the respiring of air in Ghana to the ownership of a TIN.

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Media captionThe Ghanaian girls paid to cry at funerals

However I do consider I’ve were given the method to the non-tax paying downside in Ghana and it lies within the Benjamin Franklin announcing about dying and taxes being the one certainties in existence.

That is the land of elaborate funerals and not anything stands of their approach.

So, as a substitute of claiming you’ll be able to’t have a drivers’ licence, passport, unfastened secondary college schooling on your youngsters, and even move on dates until you will have a TIN quantity, the brand new rule will have to be, you’ll be able to’t get an undertaker, purchase a coffin, dig a grave, stay a frame within the morgue, have leader mourners and hang a funeral of any sort until and till you’ll be able to produce a TIN.

Make that the regulation and simply wait and spot the take-up fee for the ones signing up for a TIN.

Loss of life and taxes would change into fantastically combined certainties and we will all change into taxpayers in Ghana.


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