The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, yesterday filed his income tax returns for 2017 at the head office of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and charged the authority to develop a mobile application to enable taxpayers to file their tax returns from the comfort of their homes.
He filed his tax returns after he had launched a Tax and Good Governance Week, an initiative of the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the GRA in Accra.
The week-long programme, on the theme: “Filing your tax returns, your civic responsibility,” is part of efforts to educate and sensitise members of the public to the need to pay their taxes.
Some ministers and government officials present took advantage of the event to also file their income tax returns for 2017.
Under the Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896) and the Revenue Administration Act, 2016 (Act 915), taxpayers, including companies, entities, the self-employed and employees, are obliged to file their return of income for a year of assessment, not later than four months after the end of that year of assessment.
In line with the law, individuals are to file their returns for the year 2017 not later than April 30, 2017, by specifying their assessable income for the year, the chargeable income, the tax payable with respect to that income and tax paid by the person for the year.
After filing the income tax returns, the taxpayers receive a declaration, signed by the person making the return and the Commissioner General of the GRA, that shows that the return is complete and accurate.
Until 2015, the filing of income tax returns was done by employers on behalf of their employees, but since the Income Tax Act came into force, all individuals and taxpayers are required to file their tax returns themselves at any GRA domestic taxpayers’ office.
It is estimated that out of the more than six million eligible taxpayers in the country, only 1.5 million are registered with the GRA.
Tax and good governance
In his keynote address, Dr Bawumia reiterated the need for the citizenry to pay their taxes regularly, adding that the filing of tax returns, apart from being a civic responsibility, was also necessary to meet the socio-economic development needs of the country.
He said taxes were important for the development of the country, particularly as the government was working hard to move the country beyond aid.
The government, he stated, was leading a change in the conventional way of mobilising revenue and that the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda could only be achieved when domestic revenue mobilisation was enhanced.
“Over the last years, domestic revenue mobilisation has not kept pace with the growing demands of our citizens for development projects and better services in education, health, water, sanitation, housing and the maintenance of law and order from the government.
Annual revenue collection has not been able to keep up with these demands, creating financing gaps, which can only be bridged either through government borrowing or through the generous support of some donor partners from their tax collections,” he said.
In his remarks, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, noted that while the government consolidated fiscal gains, Ghanaians needed to have a renewed mind in the way things were done and honour their tax obligations.
He outlined some of the policies initiated to improve tax efficiency, including the abolishment of 17 nuisance taxes and refocusing on the tax policy as a tool to support production.
Mr Ofori-Atta said an alternative tax dispute settlement scheme was also being instituted to facilitate the speedy resolution of taxpayers’ grievances.
“The government, while doing its best to make tax payment less burdensome, would, however, not hesitate to enforce the tax laws and where necessary penalise and prosecute those who engage in criminal evasion,” he warned.
Explaining the objective of the Tax and Good Governance Week in his welcome address, the Commissioner General of the GRA, Mr Emmanuel Kofi Nti, said the week was geared towards encouraging filing of annual tax returns and ultimately increasing the level of voluntary compliance.
The programme, he indicated, was a follow-up to the national tax campaign which was launched in the last quarter of 2017.
Activities planned for the tax week include media engagements, tax clinics at vantage points in Accra and in all the regions to make the filing of income tax returns easy, quiz among students from selected tertiary institutions, as well as a symposium and sensitisation for selected basic schools.
“One of the key means of ensuring voluntary compliance is to have a well-informed taxpayer population. The GRA has been tasked to collect GH¢39.8 billion tax revenue.
A number of tax compliance measures have been introduced with the hope of inducing voluntary compliance,” he said.