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Taxes with smiles - Elizabeth Ohene writes

BY: Elizabeth Ohene
Taxes with smiles - Elizabeth Ohene writes
Taxes with smiles - Elizabeth Ohene writes

I wish I could say honestly that paying my taxes was one of the happiest things I enjoy doing in my life. I can say, for example, without any hesitation that I enjoy singing, I enjoy driving, I enjoy reading, I enjoy talking, I enjoy arguing, I enjoy listening to the radio.

I would say I used to enjoy writing a lot because it came to me effortlessly, but I don’t enjoy it quite as much any longer because it now takes me a long time and I struggle to write these days.

There are things I do that I can’t say I enjoy, but I know they have to be done whether you enjoy doing them or not.

For the greater part of my life, I cooked, but I can say that it wasn’t something I enjoyed. The kitchen is not my favourite room in the house, I cooked because it was part of growing up and my mother would have been horrified to have a daughter that didn’t know how to cook.

I discovered it was a useful skill to have and I didn’t need to enjoy doing it to be passably okay at it.

I am not quite sure where paying taxes fits in this range of things that I do because they have to be done and things I enjoy doing.


There are things I do that I must confess I do only because I am obliged by the law. For example, I insure my car only because the law says I should. If there weren’t a law that says all vehicles on the roads have to be insured, I would not bother to insure my car.

So I can safely say that taking an insurance policy on my car and renewing the policy is not something I enjoy doing. I do not believe in the whole business of insurance, I am convinced they rip me off and I can never win in any dispute with an insurance company. But I make sure I insure my car because it is the law.

So there are things I do that I do not like, never mind, enjoy, but I do them because I would much rather be on the right side of the law.

Paying taxes does not fall in this category either.

I happen to believe in the paying of taxes. I happen to believe in the common good and until the experts come up with some other mechanism that will bring revenue to the State, taxes would have to be the way to keep the State running.

The law obliges me to pay taxes, I do not dislike paying my taxes, but I suspect that part of the unstated reason I don’t mind paying taxes comes from the expectation that this is something all of us must do.

I have been watching the current events surrounding the GRA with keen interest.

If restaurant owners and shopkeepers collect VAT from us customers, what they collect cannot fall into the category of the taxes that the restaurant owners and shopkeepers have to pay.

It is not money that they have to struggle with their conscience or ideology to decide whether to pay or not. It is not part of their profit or investment or operating capital.

It is money they have collected for the GRA.

By the time the VAT is collected, all the arguments, questions and hesitations about whether to pay taxes or not would have been concluded.

I do not understand how it came about that the GRA should be so lax that monies collected for them by shopkeepers and restaurant owners would become subjects over which major operations have to be planned.

I am hearing stories of shops who regularly make VAT returns of about GH¢30,000 a month, suddenly turning in GH¢1,000,000 once the “invigilation” and “E-VAT” torch is turned on their operations.

I refuse to believe that such a state of affairs could exist without the active connivance of GRA officials.

This is money we customers have already factored into our hike in cost of living lamentations; it is money for which we have already cursed the authorities and paid with reluctant smiles.

In my book, keeping such monies sounds like stealing to me and not the fancy words the GRA is giving it.