The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) with support from Oxfam Ghana has rolled out regional dialogue sessions to promote progressive corporate taxation and tax compliance towards effective and efficient revenue mobilisation for national development.
The initiative seeks to engage private sector players, civil society organisations and revenue collection agencies of the public sector in all the 16 regions on challenges impeding smooth tax collection and payments.
Speaking with the Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of the first regional dialogue session in Koforidua, GACC Executive Secretary Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh said the session aimed at deepening understanding on challenges in paying tax and affording tax administrators an opportunity to respond appropriately to the issues.
She added, the discussion was meant at adequately informing taxpayers or citizens about new things being introduced by Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to make payment of taxes easier.
She said the regional dialogue would be climaxed with a national forum on the taxpayers and collectors experiences and inputs where it was anticipated the Commissioner-General of GRA would be in attendance.
Experiences shared by participants showed that awareness creation was a public concern as some of the initiatives GRA was championing, most taxpayers were not so much aware about them.
The revelation, Mrs Narteh noted, "It meant that GRA has to do more to engage its clients or taxpayers, there should be more education and more relationships so that it does not look like people are being forced to pay taxes."
Participants also expressed their frustrations about numerous taxes burdening taxpayers, selective enforcement of sanctions on defaulters, corruption among GRA officials, limited scope of tax net and tax exemptions and holidays.
Mr Wisdom Adongo, Senior Project Officer, Private Enterprises Foundation, referencing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said tax exemptions and holidays cost Ghana $1 billion every year.
He said tax compliance had become difficult in the country because of lack of transparency, too many taxes and levies that the private sector was being required to pay, stressing: "These are layers of cost facing the private sector."
He proposed the Government should adopt a unified corporate tax system to ensure greater transparency, curtail avoidance of taxes and tackle abuse in the revenue collection chain.
Mr Joseph Asare, GRA Area Director for Eastern, Volta and Oti regions, lauded organisers of the engagement, saying, it would help shape the work of GRA for improved performance in revenue mobilisation and engagement with taxpayers.
He noted that tax collection was a difficult task as people who asked for more allowances and developments, were the same people who refused to pay tax, adding, "No income, no tax."
He said GRA was trying to sanitise the system and make it more flexible for the public to understand the requirement of taxation and ensure efficient tax system.
He added that a number of interventions had been rolled out to ensure voluntary compliance and improve revenue collection, saying, since June this year mobile money had been the mode of tax collection and taxpayers have become conscious of their responsibility.
He said taxpayers portal had been unveiled which enabled taxpayers to file online and even request their tax clearance certificates and credit certificates online.
"These are all tax compliance measures instituted," he added: Efforts were also being made to improve VAT invoices, and encouraged the public to always demand VAT invoices after transactions.
He said an App was also being developed to help identify property on rentals for easy payment of property tax.
Mr Geoffrey Kabutey Ocansey, Executive Director, Revenue Mobilisation Africa, acknowledged the efforts by GRA to facilitate tax payments and collection but noted, there were challenges where people with large taxes had to travel.
He therefore called for improved security and communication to get corporate figures to understand the use of GRA systems, and that the payments would not only come with challenges regarding technology.
But, "It is another wonderful field for corrupt individuals to start operating so there is the need to have some security."
Mr Ocansey called for the review of the legal regime governing corporate taxation, saying, for example, a company given a tax rebate for nine years and its ownership changes, the new owners take advantage of the next lap for another nine years.