Printers call for tax waiver on materials

BY: Severious Kale-Dery
Mr James Appiah-Berko, President of GPPCA
Mr James Appiah-Berko, President of GPPCA

The Ghana Printers and Paper Converters Association (GPPCA) has appealed to the government to waive taxes on all imported printing materials.

It said that would not only help reduce the cost of locally printed books and make them competitive on the global market but also help grow the book industry in the country..

The Executive Secretary of the association, Mr William Essilfie Turkson, speaking with the Daily Graphic in Accra, said currently the tax waiver was only on paper, excluding the other materials.

He said in the printing industry, the raw materials were not just paper but also ink, films, among others, which were equally important and needed to be considered for tax waiver.

Taxes

On ways to ensure cheaper printing of books domestically, Mr Turkson said since 2016, when Parliament passed the Value Added Tax {TAX} (Amendment) Act, 2015 (Act 890), the exemption had been only on bond paper.

He said currently local printers paid VAT on all printing materials, except paper, describing the situation as a challenge which needed to be looked at if the industry had to be grown.

Additionally, he said, local printers paid custom duty on all materials, explaining that in a situation like that, printers had no option but add that cost to the finished product and charge marginally higher, compared to their foreign counterparts.

Challenge

Mr Turkson expressed concern over the fact that over the past years, in spite of the association launching advocacy through seminars and workshops to have the situation improved, not much had been achieved.

He expressed worry that as the situation stood, if a deliberate effort was not made to grow the book and particularly the printing industry, it would grind to a halt and give foreign printers the opportunity to take over the industry in the country.

The Executive Secretary of the GPPCA believed that if taxes on raw materials were waived, then “we can match what the Indians and the Chinese are doing because we have all the equipment and the needed machines to execute the job”.

“We have brought in modern machines since 2017, with automatic finishing and all that,” he added, citing, for instance, how, in Nigeria, the government had developed the book industry to the level where it had overtaken Ghana's, printing all its books locally.

Mr Turkson said that with the adverse effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), almost every economy had been thrown into disarray and so those foreign printers were in the country lobbying for contracts to go back and build their economies.

He urged government not to yield to such pressure and rather support the local industry to also help Ghana's economy recover.

Mr Turkson further called on the government to have a second look at the act that brought the tax exemption into being, Act 890, because the initial understanding was that the exemption should cover all the raw materials used for producing textbooks.

He said as the act currently stood, the exemption did not cover any other materials.

He said, however, with the introduction of the VAT, the exemption was granted to only textbooks, “and so if the books are not textbooks, even though they are meant for children in school, you have to pay VAT”.

“The VAT exemption does not affect all other books. It is only textbooks, and so, for instance, if books for first reader are being printed, there is no exemption,” he lamented.

Touching on the foreign convention on books, to which Ghana was a signatory, Mr Turkson said it was binding on all signatories to allow the importation of books into the country.

Benefits

The GPPCA Executive Secretary said there was even the need to look at the custom duties on materials, stressing that everything was within the purview of the Ministry of Finance to ensure that it happened.

He underscored the benefits the country stood to gain from developing the printing industry, citing employment opportunities, building the capacity of the industry, among others, and helping grow the economy as some of the direct tangible benefits.

Mr Turkson appealed to the government to review the entire legal framework governing the book industry as part of the effort to further develop and strengthen indigenous industries.