The Founder and Chairman of Antrak Group, Alhaji Asuma Banda has advised government to relax on its aggressive tax collection regime in order to reassure investors of its support to ensure business growth.
He said tax collection in an harmonious way and persuasion is the new world order as a regime, where high handedness in tax collection is seen as the only way to ensure that businesses honour their tax obligation to the State, will only push investors and businesses away.
“The aggressive way of collecting taxes in this country will not give government the money it wants. They will end up in individual pockets,” he said.
Alhaji Asuma Banda, who is highly respected in the aviation and maritime industry, cited the increasing incidence of bribery and corruption especially at the country’s entry points to justify the many ways businesses are employing to outwit the state on paying the required tax.
“A sophisticated businessman who wants to evade taxes can do it without the government knowing the state is being cheated.
“For instance, the biggest importers are all foreigners and the people (customs officials), who the government rely on to implement the aggressive tax collection methods, are not being paid well. So importers are able to avoid paying the required tax by bribing custom officials with just about a tenth of the tax assessed.
“That is what is happening in this country. The taxmen being sent to collect the taxes are hungry and underpaid so how can they do the job well?
“Tax force will not bring in the taxes. Relax it,” he said.
Alhaji Asuma Banda recognised that taxes are needed for the government to meet its obligations of providing the necessary infrastructure and social services to the country.
However, he said collecting the taxes due the state should be done in a regime of harmony to attract and retain the confidence of taxpayers without persecution advising government to draw experiences and lessons from the tax collection regimes in the colonial era and the early years of independence.
“The government needs money but before independence how were we collecting taxes. People who have not been to school before even paid taxes. It was done in a very nice way. Today, we are struggling to get people in the informal sector to pay their taxes. Have you asked yourself why? It is because of this aggressive way of collecting taxes.
“There are so many ways of collecting taxes. In the past, property rates were collected and things were happening. But not this aggressive way of collecting taxes.
“Let’s face it! There have been so many taskforces lately to check excesses in the country. Have they stopped them?” he asked.
Alhaji Asuma Banda said government should learn from other jurisdiction where aggressive tax collection has failed and pushed businesses to relocate.
“Before Margaret Thatcher assumed her reign as the Prime Minister of Britain, we were paying 40% taxes. What most of us in business did at the time was take our business of out England completely. Even though I have never been to the Bahamas, I operated from there. So the taxes that the government was getting from us were no longer forthcoming until things changed.
“So if government wants more taxes, it should create more middle class, without which the country will never move forward,” he said.
In 2012, government total tax revenue amounted to GH¢11.7 billion, about 3.8 per cent lower than the budget target of GH¢12.2 billion. The low performance of tax revenue has been attributed to lower company taxes resulting from the non-payment of taxes by some corporate institutions, including oil companies.
This year, government has a revenue target of GHC17 billion to be realised from taxes. To achieve this, a number of taskforces have been launched including VAT Taskforce, Rent tax taskforce, Port taskforce, special government taskforce, among others.
However, there are strong indications that the government’s tax revenue target may not be achieved as customs officials of the Ghana Revenue Authority has indicated that the target is beyond their reach.