GRA is not burdened by any tax regime

Money Cedis Ghana File Photo

Tue, 24 Jul 2018 Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

I read James Daznsi’s article plaintively titled “Should GRA Be Burdened with Property Rate Collection?” and could not help but be annoyed with the writer’s attempt to thwart the imperative need for the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to become more efficient in the manner in which it goes about ensuring that the Ghanaian taxpayer becomes more civically responsible than s/he is presently.

In a country of approximately 30 million citizens, in which approximately only 2 million workers of various employment categories regularly pay their taxes, it cannot be said that the Ghana Revenue Authority is burdened or overburdened with the constitutionally mandated collection of both income taxes and the Value-Added Tax (VAT) regime.

If, indeed, the GRA is woefully understaffed, as author Dzansi claims, then what the Country Economist with the International Growth Center (IGC) ought to be calling for is the imperative need for the GRA to employ more workers to ensure that its statutory obligations are fulfilled on schedule.

The fact of the matter, as the cliché goes, is that neither the GRA nor the Government can put all their eggs in a single basket. Among the Akan, there is a maxim which says that: “When you look into a bottle with both eyes, you go blind.”

If, indeed, the Constitution specifically and uniquely mandates our Local Governments (LGs) or Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to collect property rates or taxes and these LG agencies do not seem to be up to snuff or par with their obligations, then it is in the interest of the Government and our society, in general, to empower another public agency that appears to be more capable of doing the job.

And that agency, presently, to the best of my observation, is the GRA. You see, the GRA does not need to actually usurp or take over the statutorily mandated obligations of the MMDAs; instead, the GRA could be ceded or afforded supervisory powers to facilitate a more efficient method of getting property taxes collected by MMDAs’ agents on schedule and then strictly accounted for.

You see, I have chosen to discuss an alternative means of enhancing the quality-of-life improvement of the average Ghanaian in this country because even as I write, there is an overflowing giant-sized garbage vat sitting in front of my brother-in-law’s house, where I have been living for the past two weeks, that has yet to be picked up by a company contracted for the purpose by the leaders of the local municipal assembly. My host tells me that although he pays his garbage-collection fees on schedule every month, oftentimes the garbage sits in front of his house for about two weeks to a month before being picked up.

In the meantime, it would have been raining and stinking and breeding roaches and mosquitoes, which is to say that it is a health hazard. What this means is that somebody is getting paid for doing a diddly or insignificant little or absolutely no work at all. Somebody also needs to inform Mr. Dzansi, of the International Growth Center, that we do not need to be so hopelessly and/or pathologically dependent on the Constitution that we become practically paralyzed in the process.

You see, the Constitution can always be amended to further empower public institutions and establishments that appear to have a relatively more efficient capacity to perform creditably. In other words, if the GRA appears poised to doing a better job of collecting property rates or taxes than such local government agencies as the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, then the GRA ought to be mandated to do just that.

Perennially, systematically and continuously and rampantly resorting to the increment of the VAT regime, when it is perfectly and obviously clear that the problem of fiscal famine is fundamentally due to a deficient tax-collection system, rather than the fact of high unemployment rate, as many a cabinet appointee would have the rest of us believe, is inexcusably preposterous.

Indeed, even as Mr. Dzansi himself acknowledges, and yours truly has already observed in a previous column, the problem of a woefully deficient local tax-collection system is squarely due to the fact that the paid employees charged with collecting the same, well appear to have given up their contractual obligations, even while collecting their monthly checks or salaries around the clock.

In other words, our Government, both locally and nationally, have been dishing out free money without demanding that the recipients of such money justify their right to receiving or being given the same month in and month out. I also felt scandalized to learn from Mr. Dzansi that agents in the Land Valuation Division (LVD) of the Lands Commission (LC) charged with assessing the value of landed and real-estate properties, for purposes of taxation, are only obligated to execute an average of a miserly 5 properties per day, presently, while in reality, with the proper technological mechanism in place, that same agent could evaluate at least 50 properties a day. Now, who said Ghanaians may not be congenitally lax in their attitude towards public service enterprise for their own good?

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