Government determined to block loopholes in tax exemption process

Business News of Friday, 4 August 2017



Yoofi Grant, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre

The government has explained that the review of the tax exemptions policy is meant to block the numerous loopholes that are robbing the state of millions of dollars in revenue and not to discourage investments into the country.

According to a research conducted by the Ministry of Finance last year, the country lost about $1.5 billion in revenue through the abuse of the tax exemption policy.

Speaking at a special breakfast forum dubbed ‘CEOs breakfast series’ in Accra , the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Mr Yofi Grant, said “the government is aware that there are challenges with the new stringent measures put in place to stop the abuses in the system and is ready to remedy the situation to enable those qualified to enjoy what they are due”.

Revenue shortfall

The explanation comes at a time when total revenue and grants for the government amounted to GH¢17.5 billion (8.6 per cent of GDP) as against a target of GH¢20.5 billion (10.1 per cent of GDP). Although not stated, it is anticipated that such abuses in the tax systems resulted in the government’s inability to meet its revenue target.

In the event, the government had to cut its expenditures for the period as part of measures to keep its fiscal consolidation measures on track. It is therefore, expected that the move to bring sanity into the tax exemption system will not be seen as a punitive measure by local and foreign companies but one that is aimed at helping the government to archive its revenue targets to stimulate the economy and accelerate the pace of development.

Exemptions guidelines

As part of the new guidelines, companies which are optimistic that they deserve the exemptions are to apply to the Ghana Revenue Authority.

In the meantime, unless otherwise permitted, they are required to pay all the necessary taxes which will be placed into a special escrow account and refunds from that same account after an application for the exemption has been duly granted.

Per the guidelines, such applications shall state the justification for the application and be accompanied by adequate supporting documentation, including those that show proof of payment of the related duties and taxes for which refunds are being applied for.

It further states that for the avoidance of doubt, the following documents must be attached : The basis for the exemption (i.e. by which law, by which agreement, or by which authorisation, etc.); recommendation from sector Ministry, Agency or Institution; Import Declaration Form (IDF)/Electronic Ministries Departments and Agencies (eMDA) printout; Bank receipts / Evidence of Payment; Commercial invoices among many other things.

The guidelines also require that the Commissioner-General may require applicants for such refunds to provide additional information as is reasonably necessary for support of the application and such applicants for such refunds upon the submission of all supporting documents shall be given a receipt that shall state; among other things.

Mr Grant said the GIPC would continue to work with investors, both local and foreign, to keep themselves abreast of the requirements to enable them to operate within the law and appreciate the decision of the government.

“To benefit from these incentives, you must register with the GIPC”, he said adding that, “this one thing many companies do not do but have to do”.

A tax expert with the Ministry of Finance, Mr Sampson Akligo, asked business owners to liaise with the ministry to enable them to appreciate the guidelines and the rationale for the government’s decision.

“We need to block the loopholes and much as some deserving companies may feel hurt by the action, we are prepared to take them through the process and where they deserve, they will be exempted from the right process”, he said.

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