Government urged to use strong systems to encourage informal sector to pay tax

The?managers of Ghana’s economy have been entreated to use strong, robust and creative means to encourage the 90 per cent of the population in the informal sector to pay their taxes.? ‘About 10 per cent of Ghana’s tax contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which came from the formal sector was inadequate to generate critical revenue for development, a steering committee member of Revenue Mobilization Africa (RMA)’, Mr. Leonard Shang- Quartey, has said. Mr Shang-Quartey was speaking?at the day’s forum on improving tax responsibility and effectiveness in Ghana organised by Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), in partnership with Friends of the Nation and the RMA for women-owned businesses in Takoradi in the Western Region. The event was part of a project titled ‘Promoting Progressive Taxation Compliance?in Ghana’ funded by the OXFAM in Ghana. Mr Shang-Quartey told participants that while, Ghana’s tax contribution to GDP was about 13 per cent, that of Tunisia was 32. 5 per cent, saying, ‘We must do something better because what we spend, is the same as the revenue we collect.’ He said: ‘As a country, we have serious problems with revenue generation. We need revenue for our development and so we have a heavy challenge. Over the past five years, we have performed under 15 per cent. We need to make the informal sector active and be encouraged even to formalize their businesses. ‘People make deliberate efforts to dodge taxes. And so, we have underreporting, transfer pricing manipulation, bribery and corruption, false declaration, non- remittance of tax withheld. All these put together make it difficult for the government to rake in revenue from taxes.’ Mr Shang-Quartey noted that key challenges on compliance issues included complex tax regulation, high compliance cost, lack of clarity in tax policies, taxpayers’ ignorance or misunderstanding, non-availability of required documentation and taxpayers’ perception of fairness and trust. Mr Shang-Quartey suggested taxpayers’ education to promote compliance, reduce errors and non-compliance, enhance trust and confidence, empower taxpayers and encourage voluntary compliance. He said: ‘When taxpayers have a clear understanding of where their taxes go and how they contribute to the development of the country, it builds confidence in the government’s use of tax revenue. They are also likely to comply voluntarily without the need for excessive enforcement measures including harassment.’ He emphasized the use of technology to enhance the tracking of taxpayers, improve online filing and payment systems, reduce administrative burdens and improve communication and taxpayers’ services. ‘Again, we need to simplify tax forms and procedures, improve taxpayers’ guidance and support, risked-based compliance approaches and training and capacity building to streamline the bureaucratic processes,’ Mr Shang-Quartey stressed. He encouraged participants to speak up for reforms in tax administration so that the informal sector would be roped in tax revenue mobilization. He said Ghana’s pursuit of a fairer and more effective tax system called for a multifaceted approach to overcome the prevailing challenges such as informal economic activities, tax evasion and compliance concerns. ‘Ghana is poised to realize its objective of funding essential sectors and driving economic development, thereby building a foundation for sustainable progress and ensuring the optimal utilization of tax revenue for nation advancement,’ he added. Executive Secretary of GACC, Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh, also spoke about the need for tax policies that promoted businesses of women entrepreneurs, saying ‘We need to increase the knowledge of our women ??on tax administration.’ Women entrepreneurs, she noted, played a critical role in the local economy, feeding children and even husbands and families. Mr. Alexander Oppong, an officer from the Ghana Revenue Authority,?educated the women on the need for voluntary compliance and the issuance of the Commissioner’s Invoice which is the value-added tax. He said tolls, taxes and other national levies were very critical in advancing the development agenda of the country…’ No tolls, no society’. The GRA officer told the women about the need to also keep proper records, which could guarantee reliefs and in some cases, exemptions. ?Mr Oppong said, ‘I will also entreat you to register your businesses however small to also benefit from some government initiatives’. He mentioned that an emerging zone in tax collection was the rent tax and advised both tenants and landlords to collaborate to avoid any conflict with the law. The women, during the open forum session, called for a coordinated tax regime against the multiplicity of taxes and institutions. Ms Arabia Mansah, a Hairdresser, said, ‘Can we do something about this tax system…you will be here and STMA, GRA will come, property rate, rent tax, business operating permit, income tax and so on for a small business like mine, can’t the government just allow one institution or agency to collect.’ Others called for the removal of taxes on sanitary pads and businesses led by women over sixty years. Ms. Mary Abraham, a dealer in household detergent, said the government was killing the spirit of SMEs through over-taxation. Mr. Archibald Adams, the Communication officer for Oxfam, described the interaction with the women as very insightful and a project that would increase awareness among SMEs to follow up in the name of accountability. He said Oxfam was committed to helping the citizenry to do well through proper governance structures and advocacy which promoted the rule of law and accountability. Mr. Adams implored the women-led organisations to continue to engage in issues of economic concern for the mutual benefit of the state and their well-being.

Source: Ghana News Agency