By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Monday, March 17, 2014
Folks, I am really bent on taking on those who have (mis)led Ghana since the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution to establish this 4th Republic. I won’t regret at all for whatever I say about them here and how I say it.
By their own demonstration of greed, callousness, and plain insensitivity, they deserve whatever I will heap on them—and I expect readers too to splash much scum on them. They deserve it.
My anger was provoked by news reports that among the entrenched provisions in the 1992 Constitution on which the Constitution Review Implementation Committee (CRIC) has submitted a draft bill for amendment is that “the President of Ghana and others are to pay tax”.
Let me finish providing details before I plunge into the tirade that I have chosen as my response to the matter.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, Professor E.V.O. Dankwa (Chairman of the CRIC) said some of the new provisions of the bill require that the President, the Vice-President and other Article 71 public office holders, including the Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Justice, justices of the Supreme Court, the Chairman and members of the Council of State, Ministers of State, Deputy Ministers of State and Members of Parliament pay tax to the state.
Murder!! How troubling! Oh, Ghana!!
I am more than dumbfounded to be told that all these years, the Presidents of Ghana and all those mentioned above have not been paying tax on their earnings! How despicable! How atrocious! How unpardonable!
In a country where the ordinary hawker of just anything at all is hounded by the District, Municipal, and Metropolitan Assemblies to pay daily tolls just for daring to do business in the area to earn a living and ordinary workers’ salaries are scaled down through income tax at the end of every month, how can it be that the President of the country and all those people earning millions of Cedis (through fair or foul means) are not being taxed?
When? Oh, when will we learn how to make our democracy serve its purposes? I have drawn my dagger to do damage.
How come that our system is so porous to encourage this atrocious lapse? It is inconceivable that the President and all those people can be left untaxed while the ordinary Ghanaian living in narrow circumstances is taxed, taxed, and overtaxed to the point of exhaustion.
And it is more than insulting to be told by the government that it has raised the VAT rate to 17.5%, apparently to make up for the shortfalls in revenue mobilization through taxation.
Again, it is unacceptable that having not paid taxes all these years, the Presidents who have ruled the country since the initiation of this 4th Republic will even have the impudence to talk about nation-building and to demand that Ghanaians continue to tighten their belt.
Something is seriously wrong with us in our part of the world. We are lost beyond redemption.
I am not in the least surprised that all these years, the President and all those people haven’t been paying taxes but have the nerve to exhort Ghanaians on good citizenship or to even put in place measures to widen the tax net.
Do these people really have any conscience at all that pricks them?
Folks, this kind of nauseating approach to governance won’t encourage patriotism at all. It won’t motivate the citizens to do what is required for national redemption. In a democracy, this kind of laxity is unacceptable.
And it really irritates me to know that the very people not paying taxes are those being supported heavily by the poor tax payers to live in comfort, using everything available to cushion themselves just because of what they are and where Fate has placed them in the mockery of a democracy obtaining in Ghana.
Think about the free accommodation, the perks of office, and many other wide-ranging opportunities available for them to exploit and you should be nettled by their not paying taxes as other income-earners do.
Only in Ghana can such a lapse be tolerated. If the President and all those people don’t pay tax, why should any other person do so? Don’t tell me it is a constitutional provision that exempts them.
Our democracy is really a farce. In other countries, the tax regime doesn’t discriminate on the basis of social or political status. The constitution won’t even have room for anything of the sort because, as the bedrock of the democracy being practised, the Constitution doesn’t respect persons or status!
Where I live in the United States, tax obligations are unavoidable. Right from the President to the ordinary menial worker, the payment of tax is a national obligation, which is strictly enforced and punishment given to defaulters. Find out how much tax President Obama, for instance, pays and you should worry about the “nonsense” going on in Ghana.
Indeed, there is no way anybody can even outwit the US system. The employer is enjoined to enumerate the tax obligations and effect the appropriate deductions at source, even before the worker receives his/her pay stub at the end of the period for which payment of salaries/wages will be made.
I will use just two concrete examples to support my claim that nobody in the US who is eligible to pay tax can avoid doing so (and everybody who earns income must pay tax; no amount of political connections or anything can be used to dodge the system).
EXAMPLE ONE: FROM MY OWN SITUATION
I am paid a monthly salary on the basis of my status in the academy. My tax obligations are defined by the level of income and number of dependents claimed.
Here is the breakdown of some obligatory deductions at source (for the month of February, 2014. I claimed 3 dependents):
i. Federal Withholding = $410.42
ii. Federal MED/EE = $75.00
iii. Federal OASDI/EE = $322.80
iv. New York (State) Withholding = $232.84
v. New York NEW YORK (City) Withholding = $144.80
Put all these figures together and you will get the total tax deductions for one month alone!!
Then, for the first two months of this year (2014), here is the total deductions for tax purposes:
i. Federal Withholding = $820.84
ii. Federal MED/EE = $157.42
iii. Federal OASDI/EE = $673.13
iv. New York (State) Withholding = $466.58
v. New York NEW YORK (City) Withholding = $289.60
These are just some of the deductions made on an individual’s earnings. Other liabilities are determined by other factors including vision insurance, core medical insurance, retirement, union dues, etc.
Folks, we are talking about tax deductions every month for 12 months at the end of which one is expected to file one’s tax returns for the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether one has met one’s obligations fully or not or should be made to pay more for the year in question (in addition to penalty)!
EXAMPLE TWO: FROM A WAGE-EARNER PAID EVERY WEEK
Here too, the individual’s tax obligations are contingent on many factors, but the reality is that the employer ensures that the individual pays tax as and when due for emoluments:
i. Federal Income Tax = $7.09
ii. OASDI = $32.89
iii. Medicare = $7.69
iv. New York SITW = $14.00
v. New York Disability–EE = $0.60
vi. New York, NY (Resident) = $ 9.64
In total, then, this wage earner pays $71.51 every week, depending on the total earnings (granted that there will be overtime and number of dependents claimed).
My good friends, no one can outwit the system, I repeat, because the employer ensures that everybody fills Form W-9 and at the end of the year, every employee is issued a tax declaration form W-2 in which everything about earnings is clearly itemized and totaled to enable the individual to declare his/her tax earnings to the IRS.
Under such a rigid system, the individual is not covered by any Constitution or self-serving official bureaucratic arrangement as happens in Ghana.
You see, these citizens paying so much tax in the US may grumble, but they have no other option but to meet such an obligation. Some are even well disposed toward paying taxes because they consider it as a national duty and an act of responsibility.
They point to evidence of how their tax money is used to improve living conditions in the country and to enhance responsible governance. So much for the good of this area.
What we have in Ghana is abominable, which is why I unreservedly condemn the President and all those unpatriotic elements living fat at the expense of the ordinary citizens paying tax to support them.
So appalling is this situation that if care is not taken, the citizens will have no other option but to put into motion some calculated measures to endanger this so-called democracy.
Why has it taken so long to bring this issue into the open? Indeed, Ghana’s leaders are the real problems to be solved. No wonder that nothing is working well for the country.
If I had my own way, I would instigate the citizens not to pay any tax at all, damn the consequences. After all, if the President of the country and all those irresponsible beneficiaries of the loopholes in the system aren’t paying tax despite their huge earnings, why should the ordinary citizens scratching a painful living all over the country do so?
And to worsen the situation, it is these tax-payers whose toil, swear, and blood sustain the very institutions presided over by the non-tax-paying president and all those parasites.
The nitty-gritty of the review process doesn’t bother me at all. After all, organizing a referendum regarding those proposed amendments is nothing strange for as long as it doesn’t introduce anything new to improve decision-making at the lower levels (The ordinary citizens won’t be given any voice in determining which aspects of the Constitution should be amended. As usual, it is a top-down approach, which is disrespectful of the interests of the vast majority).
How did this CRIC committee take it upon itself to know what is dear to the hearts of Ghanaians as far as constitutional amendments are concerned? Hand-picked aspects now being rammed down their throats as the be-it-all-and-end-it-all don’t mean anything to them. They are as usual far removed from the entire process and won’t bat an eyelid at how the process unfolds. Come referendum time, those who want to vote will do so; and those who don’t want to have anything to do with the process will stay away. Who cares?
I am boiling over and will end it here. But I will definitely return to pick up the pieces. Tweaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to our so-called leaders and “Dueee” to Oman Ghana!!
I shall return…
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