The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) on Tuesday demonstrated its resolve to bite in the implementation of the Excise Tax Stamp Act when it prevented a number of manufacturing companies and retail outlets that failed to comply with the law from moving their products onto the market.
The companies had loaded their trucks with beverages ready to move out when the special task force of the GRA stormed their premises to stop the trucks from moving because the companies had failed to affix excise tax stamps on their products.
Companies that were caught in the web were Accra Brewery Limited (ABL), SBC Beverages, and producers of Pepsi; GIHOC Distilleries and Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL).
Also affected were shops at the Achimota Retail Centre.
Teams of GRA officers were also stationed at the manufacturing sites of the companies indefinitely to ensure that products which left for the markets were affixed with the stamps.
The Excise Tax Stamp Act, 2013 (Act 873) which was passed by Parliament in December 2013 stipulates that excisable goods should be affixed with the tax stamps before they are put on the market for sale.
The excise tax stamps are specially designed digital stamps with security features which are affixed on specified excisable goods, whether locally manufactured or imported.
Goods affected by the law include cigarettes and other tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, whether canned or contained in kegs, non-alcoholic carbonated beverages, whether bottled, canned or packaged in any other form, and bottled water.
The enforcement of the act started at the ports on January 1, 2018 and the points of sale on March 1, 2018, with a special task force commencing the first phase of an enforcement exercise in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi.
During the exercise, goods which did not have the excise stamps affixed on them were removed from the shelves of some shops but they were not seized.
Yesterday the special task force started the second phase of the enforcement strategy by visiting factories and retail outlets unannounced.
It was found that ABL and SBC Beverages had not complied with the provisions of the law, as some of their products did not have the tax stamps on them.
As a result, the task force detained all trucks which had been loaded with the company's products and prevented them from driving out of the factory premises.
At the Achimota Retail Centre, packages of soft drinks which did not have tax stamps on them were removed from the shelves and detained by the team.
At Guinness Ghana, the team found that the company had affixed tax stamps on its soft drinks such as canned and bottled malt.
The team found a young man affixing the stamps manually with a hand-held machine, but it was learnt that the company had three machines for both manual and electronic fixing of the stamps.
Two additional machines had been imported and, according to the company, delivery was expected by the end of this month.
The Corporate Communications Director of the GGBL, Mr Gabriel Opoku Asare, told journalists that the company was working towards full compliance with the law and was collaborating with the GRA in that regard.
Briefing journalists after the exercise, the leader of the tax force, Mr Kwabena Apau Anto, said the detained goods would be taken to the GRA office where the taxes on them would be calculated, after which penalties would be levied on them.
Under the law, defaulters will face an imposition of a 300 per cent penalty of the duties and taxes involved.
“We won't allow any truck loaded with products to leave the factory if the products do not have the stamps. We are going to introduce night patrols to ensure that companies which claim they load their goods at night do not escape the law,” he said.
Mr Anto explained that the law was aimed at controlling the importation and local production of excisable goods for revenue purposes, check illicit trading, smuggling and counterfeiting of excisable products.