Feature Article of 2017-06-19

Are Ghanaians hostile to levies?

The reaction from the Ghanaian public to the towing levy does not come as a surprise at all. Does it? I guess not. The poor appetite being exhibited by Ghanaians towards the payment of taxes/levies did not begin overnight, it obviously started from somewhere. It could be traced to one thing poor/misapplication of previous State funds by successive governments and other State institutions over the years. The idea behind the towing levy itself does not make sense to me and a lot more Ghanaians, and could warrant the kind of rebellious feedback from the general public. But I also think there is more to it….there is this strong perception among the populace about the fact that proceeds from the proposed levy may not serve its intended purpose in the long run. Could the Ghanaian taxpayer be faulted for alleging that greater proportion of the proceeds from the towing levy may be diverted to enrich a few? Oh yes, they [taxpayers] know….they know about the bunch of rots which are always captured in the Auditor General’s report annually. They know……they know about embezzlement of State funds, uncovered by anticorruption crusaders like Azure Manasseh, Captain Smart, Anas and the rest. They know……they know about what goes on at the annual Public Account Committee’s sitting on GTV. They know about how proceeds from some existing levies are being used to purchase expensive cars and other properties for individuals. They also know about how some toll collectors at tollbooths do get rich overnight, while portions of roads at this very tollbooths are hit with potholes and manholes. If only our leaders had previously applied our taxes appropriately and to the benefit of the taxpayer, the debate on the towing levy would have probably been different. When the debate on the ban on plastics came up in 2015, producers and importers of plastic products alluded to the fact that there is an extra tax component paid to government by plastic importers and producers, for plastic waste management in Ghana. How much has been realized from the said special levy imposed on the importation and manufacturing of plastics over the years? How is such fund being applied, with respect to waste management by successive governments? And what is the state of plastic related filth in Ghana today? Although this may be subjected to further prove, greater proportion of the filth we see in our environment today are those coming from plastics. The inference is that, the demand for, and the utilization of plastics are very high and that, more money would also be realized from the “special waste management levy” imposed on these plastics to tidy up the environment. The situation is however different. I don’t own a car or motorbike today and even if I am unable to own one tomorrow, my children might own one in future. It is only necessary that I add my opinion voice to this national discourse against this towing levy to ensure my children don’t inherit the payment of any unreasonable pre-towing service levy for owing a vehicle. All that we are saying is that there are a lot of legitimate questions begging for answers, as to how funds from similar levies were applied by governments and State institutions in the past. Providing answers to these questions will give our tax collectors that impetus and the clean hands to come seeking for new levies backed by justifications. Pre-levying every vehicle owner/user for towing services is obviously not a good idea. Parliament and the President must reconsider this decision. Ghanaians are not necessarily hostile to levies, but they just don’t have the appetite for new levies owing to the fact that proceeds from existing levies are being misapplied and embezzled with so much impunity. The intention behind the policy may be good, but the policy direction is unarguably wrong. Charge me for towing my car; don’t charge everyone to tow cars.Source: Gbolu Samson
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