The Tax Justice Coalition of Ghana has noted with regret the reported alleged granting of unauthorized tax waivers, conniving with a taxpayer to evade tax and the destruction of tax history files at one of the two GRA offices in Osu and other offices as reported by the New Crusading Guide on 27th May, 2019. These allegations, if found to be true, will be unfortunate as the GRA has embarked on a serious effort to intensify revenue mobilization efforts, an exercise that needs the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially its own employees who are paid with tax revenues. It is even more saddening as the alleged report adds that the GRA’s own initial investigations into the issues are being frustrated by some personnel at the GRA offices, especially at Osu RE office. The TJC – Ghana is also aware that the accused officer has denied the allegations, a situation that calls for further investigations by an independent body, such as the EOCO, the Office of Special Prosecutor or even the Finance Committee of Parliament.
However, the TJC – Ghana is encouraged by the reported interest and initial action being taken by the GRA Commissioner General on the issue but is convinced that the reported frustrations require an independent investigation, as it is the Coalition’s hope that such an independent investigation will take place in a more transparent manner and will unearth the truth surrounding the allegations.
If these reports are confirmed, the infractions will be in clear contravention of section 76 (1) of the of the Revenue Administration Act, 2016 (Act 915) which states that: “A person who knowingly or without reasonable excuse aids, abets, counsels or induces another person to commit an offence under section 78 to 84 is liable to pay a penalty of one hundred percent of the tax shortfall.” As the revenue collection agency’s demand of citizens and companies to faithfully honour their tax obligations, it behoves on the same agency to engender and build trust with citizens. Malpractices such as those described in the news report, if found to be true, will not only lead to revenue loss to the state but also erode the trust of the public in the GRA and its officials, because it demonstrates unfairness in the tax administration and discourages citizens from honouring their tax obligations.
The TJC – Ghana, therefore, calls on the Finance Committee of Parliament, the Ministry of Finance and the GRA to take an active interest in this case to not only punish the culprits but also to establish and understand the conditions that make these infractions possible so as to curb them. The public purse will definitely leak seriously if these acts continue and are perpetuated without any effort to prevent them. The reality of multiplying these practices by the about 69 GRA offices around the country is too dire to anticipate.
While calling for the investigations, the TJC – Ghana calls on the GRA to furnish Ghanaians with answers from its initial investigations on the veracity or otherwise of the allegations made:
- Are tax officers really in a position to grant unapproved tax waivers to companies in Ghana?
- Can the GRA assure Ghanaians that this case, if found to be true, is an isolated case and is not likely to happen in other GRA offices?
- Is the destruction of/and hiding of tax files and taxpayer history common practices in the GRA offices across the country?
- Are there instances of sanctions in cases where this has been detected?
- Was there any collusion between an automobile company and tax officials at the Osu office to evade tax?
- Is the accused officer currently on suspension or interdiction while the investigations are going on?
The TJC – Ghana views the reports as serious allegations that should not be allowed to disappear with the news cycle. The Coalition is calling for immediate steps to deter and discourage such practices in the future. Beyond punitive actions, the GRA must also seek lessons from the allegations so as to change the conditions in the agencies that encourage these types of infractions. We call on the Finance Committee of Parliament, the Ministry of Finance and the GRA to act promptly on this. Tax Justice Coalition Ghana is a network of Ghanaian CSOs that promotes tax equity, transparency and accountability for development, poverty reduction and the collective progress and well being of all citizens.
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