E-levy passed, but Minority walks out on motion

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
E-levy passed, but Minority walks out on motion
E-levy passed, but Minority walks out on motion

Parliament on Tuesday approved the Electronic Transfer Levy Bill (E-Levy), 2021, paving the way for the government to rake in about GH¢6.9 billion in revenue this year.

The bill, which imposes a 1.5 per cent tax on all electronic and mobile money transfers, was approved by 137 Majority Members of Parliament (MPs).

The rate is a downward revision from the initially proposed 1.75 per cent.

Minority walks out

The approval came after the 137 MPs of the Minority side of Parliament staged a walkout of the Chamber, on the grounds that they did not want to be associated with any further proceedings on or approval of the bill, which was being considered under a certificate of urgency.

The walkout came after the House had concluded the debate on the bill and the Speaker was to put the question on the motion for the adoption of the Finance
Committee’s report in 2.4 million, approximately eight per cent of the population, were registered as personal income taxpayers.

Mr Ofori-Atta said the government had, therefore, resolved to take the necessary steps to improve domestic revenue mobilisation and strengthen the competence of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in assessing electronic tax handles without compromising the pro-poor interventions of the government.

He added that between 2017 and 2021, mobile money transactions in the country increased from GH¢1.55 billion to GH¢9.86 billion.

The minister said the E-Levy had been designed to tap into e-transactions to widen the tax net, help increase the tax per capita ratio and generate the much-needed funds for the country.

“The government is of the conviction that if all the people of Ghana share the burden of domestic revenue mobilisation by equitably contributing their fair share of the taxes, the GH¢100 billion CARES Obaatanpa programme will successfully transform our economy to realise the President’s vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid, a wiser, wealthier, inclusive and sustainable, empowered and resilient society,” Mr Ofori-Atta stated.

Supporting the motion, the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Kwaku Kwarteng, informed the House that the Speaker had referred the bill to the committee for consideration on December 16, last year.

He said during the consideration of the bill at the committee level, the Finance Minister had requested that it be considered under a certificate of urgency, a request the committee granted, amid some level of dissent from the Minority members on the committee.

“Mr Speaker, the entire 12 Minority members on the committee declined recommending this referral to the House for passing. However, the committee, by majority
decision, recommended to this House to adopt this report and pass the E-Levy Bill into law, subject to the amendments proposed under Article 106 of the Constitution,” he said.

E-Levy is regressive

Arguing against the consideration of the bill ahead of its passage, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said nowhere in the world was tax on e-transactions pegged at 1.5 per cent.

In his view, the tax was regressive; that is, it imposed equal taxes on the rich and the poor, and that it would discourage the realisation of a cashless society and impose financial hardships on the ordinary Ghanaian.

“Because we do not support the E-Levy, the Minority group, led by me, after listening to the Majority Leader, will not be part of any further proceedings on the E-Levy,” he said.

“We want to be recorded that when the ELevy was brought to the Eighth Parliament, we stood together opposed to it and we asked for its rejection,” Mr Iddrisu added.

“We do not support the E-Levy and so count us out of it; they can proceed with whatever they want,” he said, and led his side out of the Chamber.

Question on motion

Intervening, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, drew the Speaker’s attention to the fact that in spite of the walkout, the House still had quorum, as Minority members were deemed to be still in the House, for which reason the House could continue with the rest of the business.

He, therefore, invited the Speaker to put the question on the motion for the adoption of the Finance Committee’s report in support of the second reading of the bill.

After registering his “surprise” at the turn of events, the Speaker told the House: “I have no problem going on with the consideration of the bill because the House is properly constituted. Walkouts do not stop the House from proceeding with its business and so my pleasure is for us to continue.”

Application granted

Heeding the applicationby the Majority Leader, the Speaker put the question for those in favour of adopting the committee’s report recommending the second
reading of the bill to say so.

In response, the Majority MPs, in a thunderous “yeah” chorus, threw their weight behind the motion.

The bill was subsequently read for the second time, paving the way for its consideration ahead of its third reading and approval.