Focus more on property taxes than VAT

Mon, 16 Jul 2018 Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

It should not surprise anybody, if the government turns out to be struggling to locate adequate funding for the sustainable maintenance of the fee-free Senior High School System. I don't ever recall then-Candidate Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo or any of the key operatives of the then main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) saying that it was going to be a cakewalk to fully and sustainably implement the fee-free Senior High School Policy Initiative (See “Gov't Not Struggling to Fund Free SHS – Oppong Nkrumah” CitiNewsRoom.com / Ghanaweb.com 7/15/18). What is significant to bear in mind here is the exponentially positive impact that a fee-free SHS policy initiative is apt to have on the long-term development of the country.

It is a worthwhile investment; and the decision by President Akufo-Addo to use a sizable chunk of the country's oil revenue to underwrite this project could not be both more opportune and significant. Indeed, like the Value-Added Tax or Sales Tax that already exists, using our oil revenue to sustainably underwrite the cost of the fee-free SHS policy initiative is the most savvy and meaningful way for every Ghanaian citizen and/or family to benefit from the appropriation of the same. But what I really want to highlight in this column is the need for the government to launch a massive campaign on the payment of property taxes. I have a reasonably well-to-do relative who tells me that he oftentimes has to personally walk into one of the offices of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), nearly every year, to request to be given his property-tax bill.

Now, this is more than scandalous. In the main, we are talking about homeowners. My relative tells me that it well appears that the government has given up on the most lucrative or fetching avenue of taxation. He figures that if the government and the employees of the Ghana Revenue Authority got serious about the collection of property taxes around the clock, there would be little need for a cash-strapped government to be constantly, unrealistically and oppressively trying to increase the Value-Added Tax which adversely impacts the lower- and lower-middle-class Ghanaian worker. “The rich people are not paying their fair share of property taxes in this country, including executive government appointees,” my relative says with wistful irritation.

He also mentions the names of a few filthy rich Ghanaian citizens, including one pontifical and loudmouthed chieftain who owns a historic soccer club, who may also not be paying their fair share of taxes on their bank accounts and other investment properties. You see, at 17.5 percent, the VAT is already too unbearably high for the Finance Minister, Mr. Kenneth Ofori-Atta, and his Economic Management Team, which is actually headed by Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia, with the able assistance of Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo, to be considering upping it by 4-percentage points to a prohibitive 21-5 percent. It is also beginning to make sense to me, I tell my relative, why too many feeder – or service – roads in the Greater-Accra Metropolitan Area are literally impassable and unmotorable.

Recently, for example, I visited the home of a sister-in-law who lives just two blocks from the private residence of former Inspector-General of Police Mr. John Kudalor in Sarkumono, near the Golf Club. A stretch of one mile from the main Accra-Tema Highway took us nearly a half-hour to negotiate. I am actually being conservative here with my calculation of the time that it took us from the main road to my sister-in-law's house. When I asked the cab driver why it was taking us so intolerably long to get to my sister-in-law's house, which we could readily see in the distance, Mr. Henry Quarshie, who also happened to have been Ghana's first Uber Driver – I had also just learned that he was one of my Akyem-Nkronso cousins, his father is Ga, however – chuckled and told me to count myself lucky that it had not rained recently, else I would have had to give up the entire idea of attempting to visit my sister-in-law.

Then I asked my sister-in-law, Eli, once we got to her place, why the very street that also passed in front of the private residence of IGP Kudalor was so poorly maintained. “You know, at the time of his appointment and reign as IGP, Mr. Kudalor was living in one of those government-owned homes while he was still building the house in which he presently lives. I guess he had given much less thought to having something done about the very poor state of this street, because he had probably not imagined that the NDC could be voted out of power so soon.”

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Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.