Tax collectors all over the world are people whose faces many business men and women would not like to see, for obvious reasons. The state, and for that matter the government, depends on revenue from taxpayers and other sources to carry out developmental activities.
In Ghana, for instance, the only people who pay tax regularly are salaried workers who earn less than the self-employed and business people. They pay regularly because the taxes are deducted at source due to the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system.
Throughout our history, those who control our revenue have had to, time and again, remind taxpayers to live up to their civic responsibilities.
During the erstwhile PNDC era, the dreaded Citizens Vetting Committee (CVC) had to order the confiscation of many assets because their owners, mostly the self-employed, did not pay taxes. The way the CVC carried out its activities raised a lot of hue and cry in local and international circles because it was felt that the principles of rule of law were not followed during its deliberations.
Although the people had a point, the country was held hostage by majority of income earners who flatly refused to pay taxes to enable the government to run public administration and promote further development.
Even though we have now attained a middle-income status, the tax revenue to GDP ratio is nothing to write home about. It is for this reason that the passage of a bill to grant tax amnesty to people who have failed to pay taxes as required under the Internal Revenue Act, 2000, Act 592, must be looked up. The bill is to grant amnesty to people so that they do not pay penalties and interests in respect of taxes due or payable.
The report of the committee that looked at the bill in Parliament said another motivation for the introduction of the bill was to free people from the fear of being made to pay penalties and interests on the amount of taxes owed, so that they could come forward to regularise their tax position with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The Daily Graphic recognises that from time immemorial it has not been easy for income earners to pay taxes. Indeed, had it not been for the fact that the taxes of salaried workers are deducted at source, the situation could have been disastrous.
That is why we call on the GRA to intensify public education on the payment of taxes by all citizens, including small-scale entrepreneurs and petty traders.
Our governments can deliver to the expectation of the people only when we empower them with the wherewithal to carry out development activities. No where in the world do governments and their functionaries use their personal resources for the development of countries. It is the taxes paid by all that provide the revenue for national development.
While we call on the citizens to live up to their civic obligations, it is also incumbent on the GRA to seal the loopholes inherent in tax administration, so that there will be no leakage into the pockets of selfish individuals.
Ghana needs every pesewa of tax to transform the destiny of the people for the better. Every income earner must resolve to contribute to national development, so that we can leave Ghana a better place than we came to meet it.