Why GRA E-VAT system must succeed
Reverend Amisshaidai Owusu-Amoah - Commissioner-General, GRA

Why GRA E-VAT system must succeed

The implementation of the Ghana Revenue Authority’s (GRA’s) electronic Value Added Tax (E-VAT) could not have come at a more opportune time, a time when the country cannot meet its debt obligations, a situation that has landed us at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ask for support to rescue the economy.

One effect of this is the current Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP) being undertaken by the government, a requirement by the IMF to enable the country to access US$3 billion to support the economy.

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In sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana has about the lowest tax-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, far below 20 per cent. It is also general knowledge that nobody is fond of paying taxes anywhere in the world. We avoid, evade or outrightly refuse to file for or pay taxes. It is human nature, no doubt.

It was not for nothing that Zacchaeus in the Good Book was despised among his own kith and kin.

But this is also a country where every person demands his or her “pound of flesh” from the government with regard to the provision of basic social services.

On many media platforms, discussions on any subject attracts government bashing for its inability to provide the social services the citizenry demand. And, of course, we must demand from leadership key actions on the national scale.

The government has, over the past six years, pioneered the digital transformation of its services in the country. Talk of the rather laborious processes involved in the acquisition of passports in the past, the NHIS registration, drivers’ licence processes, with ‘goro boys’ hijacking the processes, the street-naming exercise, the government payroll restructuring, the housing address system and many other projects.

While these have come at great cost to the state, it is worrying that some of these projects are sliding back into the same old bureaucracies the digitalisation was meant to replace.

It is a well-known fact that human interventions and the deliberate attempt by some public sector workers and their cohorts in the business sector have combined to frustrate otherwise good projects that take away the human element, ensure efficiency and eradicate corrupt practices.

Therefore, as the GRA seeks to provide convenient services for taxpayers, it is our prayer that such human interventions and the same old public sector mindset of ensuring that the system does not work are not associated with this project.

We cannot kill the goose that lays the golden egg on the altar of personal aggrandizement and at the expense of national development.

These are well-intentioned programmes that will help address some of the obvious lapses in our tax administration and help the country navigate the way out of its current economic challenges.

No nation has ever developed on the back of handouts. Throughout history, it has been the taxes and sacrifices of the citizenry that have built great nations.

Ghanaians are quick to always talk about how other countries seem to be making great strides in their national lives.

What we have failed to take into account is that those countries and their nationals take their civic duties seriously.

Paying the right taxes is one sure way Ghana can make giant strides forward as a nation. There are no quick fixes anywhere.

The new E-VAT offers to reduce the tax fraud of under-invoicing, among many other schemes used by tax evaders to undermine the system, and provide the GRA real time information.

The Graphic Business supports the GRA’s efforts during this roll-out stage, but cautions that it must be done across the board and not selectively. After all, this policy is for the benefit of both the taxpayer and the GRA, since it enhances convenience on the part of the user and the GRA.

We can foresee the push back from those whose business has always been to evade taxes at the least opportunity.

The Graphic Business has a keen interest in this country being put back on track to raise the revenue levels that will support our national development agenda.

To this end, while we commend the GRA leadership for this initiative, we will not shy away from pointing out the obvious lapses that have the potential to derail the progress the government is making in its tax administration efforts.

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We have a shared goal — to see this country prosper — and we at the Graphic Business will use our credible platform to help the GRA achieve its objectives. However, this must be done in an atmosphere that brings everyone on board seamlessly for the good of the country.

This project cannot fail.

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