Tax Returns Filing: Mahama Challenged…‘Constitutional Red Flag’ Raised But Presidency Denies Wrongdoing

A Ghanaian Professor based in the United States of America (USA), Professor Stephen Asare (a.k.a Kwaku Azar), has raised pertinent issues with President John Mahama filing his 2012 Tax returns at the Domestic Tax Revenue Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) office in Accra yesterday, saying it was against the dictates of the 1992 Constitution.

The President, after going through a symbolic process in fling his taxes at the Kinbu office of GRA, also granted interview to the media, admonishing all Ghanaians of the need to pay tax in order to enhance the development of the nation.

Revenue is what gives us the good things that we want. The roads don’t appear magically from heaven. It’s because of the taxes that we pay that we are able to raise the revenue to fix the roads and so I thought that, my gesture in coming here and paying my taxes personally and letting everybody know that even the President is not totally exempted from taxes”, he said

The President added, “When the Constitution Review Committee is fully done, the President will also pay tax on his official income, but aside from that, any extra income the President earns from any activity is taxable and so I came to pay my taxes on income for the 2012 fiscal year.”

But, Professor Kwaku Azar in an email posted to The New Crusading GUIDE and other recipients said the move contradicts Article 68 (5) of the 1992 Constitution which exempts the President from paying taxes on his Presidential Pay package.

He said the Constitution stipulates that “the President shall not, while he continues in office as President hold any other office of profit or emolument whether private or public and whether directly or indirectly.”

“This means, in ordinary usage, the President is not entitled to either salary (employee) or profit (entrepreneur) while he is President”, he underscored.

However, President Mahama justified his approach in filing his tax returns, in spite of the Constitutional exemption, explaining that “even as President, if you have any other income, apart from your official income, you are supposed to pay tax”.

The US-based Professor disagreed, and therefore challenges the President to declare his “income from other sources” as publicly admitted to allow Ghanaians to ascertain whether he has been holding “other office of profit or emolument,” contrary to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, in a response to an inquiry conducted by this paper at the presidency on the President’s Tax payment saga, the Executive Secretary to the President, Dr. Raymond Atuguba issued an official email statement to the effect that:

“The President of the Republic, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama filed his tax returns on 2nd April 2013. A number of issues have however, been raised in the mass media by a number of commentators as to the propriety or otherwise of the sitting President filing his tax returns.

· “The first issue is that in the light of article 68(1), the President of the Republic is not supposed to hold any office of profit or emolument.

· “The second issue being raised is that as per article 68(5) of the 1992 constitution, the President of the Republic is exempt from paying tax.

“These issues are however misplaced for the following reasons:

“The first reason is that His Excellency John Dramani Mahama was Vice President between 7th January 2009 and June 2012. Therefore as Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, he was required to pay tax for part of the last tax year. This is because the 1992 constitution per article 68(5) DOES NOT EXEMPT THE VICE PRESIDENT FROM PAYING TAX BUT ONLY THE PRESIDENT.

“Article 68(5) of the 1992 constitution provides that ‘The salary, allowances, facilities, pensions and gratuity [of the President] shall be exempt from tax.’

“It must be noted that at all material times article 68 (5) makes reference to only the PRESIDENT and not the VICE PRESIDENT.

“With regards the second issue, it needs to be clarified that what the President is precluded from doing as per article 68(1) of the 1992 constitution is to hold ‘any office of profit or emolument’. This means for this tax year, His Excellency, President John Dramani Mahama will have to pay tax on taxable income that accrues to him other than from holding an office.

This means that monies accruing from a book that the President has written will be taxable because it does not derive from an ‘office’ within the meaning of article 68(1).”