Beginning from the next academic year in September 2019, parents and guardians will now have to show proof of their tax identification numbers (TINs) before their children and wards can be allowed to benefit from the free senior high school (SHS) programme. The move by the Ministry of Finance is to ensure that people are tax compliant before they are allowed to benefit from government-sponsored social intervention programmes and policies.It is also aimed at ensuring that all Ghanaians obtain TINs to give the government a proper and comprehensive view of people's earnings for the purposes of tax administration and collection.
Consequently, the Director of the Revenue Division at the Ministry of Finance, Mr Anthony Dzadra, has advised parents and guardians who do not have TINs to endeavour to register or risk having their children and wards barred from benefiting from the free SHS programme, beginning from the 2019 academic year.
In an interview after a post-budget forum in Accra last Monday, Mr Dzadra disagreed with suggestions that linking the TIN to free SHS would prevent needy persons from benefiting from the programme.
The post-budget forum was organised by the Finance Ministry for members of the Institute of Finance and Economic Journalists (IFEJ).
The TIN is a unique 11-digit number that is a requirement under the Revenue Administration Act (RAA) 2016 (Act 915). Obtaining a TIN is a requirement for any taxpayer to transact business with ease.
Although the law was passed two years ago, its implementation took off in July this year. Since then, it has become mandatory for people to obtain TINs before they are served at the Passport Office, the banks, courts, ports, the Lands Commission, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the Registrar-General’s Department and other state agencies.
It is the expectation of the Ministry of Finance that increased generation of TINs will translate into increased revenue to make up for any revenue shortfalls.
In the first nine months of this year, revenue outturns fell below target by 9.5 per cent to GH¢31.7 billion.
Recently, the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, declared the decision by the government to now demand from citizens their TINs before allowing them to access social services such as free health care under national health insurance, free SHS education and other services such as vehicle licensing and registration, passport services, banking services and mobile money services. The minister said the country needed to give all people and entities, regardless of residence status, an opportunity to honour their tax obligations that justified access to public goods.
Broadening tax base
Expatiating on the rationale behind the government’s decision to make TIN a condition for accessing free SHS, Mr Dzadra said the move was meant to rope all persons into the tax net to help boost revenue collection.
“For us to be able to achieve a Ghana Beyond Aid and generate the needed revenue, we need to make sure that everybody pays a little tax, and one of the ways of ensuring that everybody pays is for everybody to register for a TIN,” he said.
Although using the TIN to determine who benefited from free SHS would certainly create challenges, Mr Dzadra said people had no excuse not to register for the TIN.
“The next time is in September next year and that is why we are asking people to use this opportunity to register,” he said.