The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), is regretting that it has delayed processes to administer and implement a taxation regime for Ghana’s e-commerce sector as businesses operating in that category, are making tremendous gains in this COVID-19 period. However it is now preparing a concrete framework for the taxation of e-commerce although actual timelines for commencement have not been announced. When it commences, consumption taxes will apply on e-commerce transactions, in addition to the income taxes already applicable on businesses that provide platforms for e-commerce activities.
The total value of e-commerce in Africa reached US$16.5 billion in 2017 and the amount is expected to reach US$29 billion by 2022. Although data is not immediately available for Ghana specifically, the use of digital channels for commerce has increased exponentially since March because of the COVID 19 outbreak and there are no indications when the situation will subside. Indeed, the conventional wisdom now is that even when the pandemic does subside, digital commerce will retain a larger share of total commerce values and volumes than hitherto.
Although e-commerce is spreading steadily in Sub-Saharan Africa, three economies, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya continue to dominate the e-commerce business landscape on the continent.
A report from internet retailer, Digital Commerce 360, has indicated that consumers worldwide spent nearly US$3.46 trillion on online business transactions in 2019, up from US$2.93 trillion in 2018.
Ghana, within the last decade, has been witnessing rising activities in that sector, with the advent of platforms including eShopAfrica.com, tonaton.com, carmudi.com.gh, lamudi, jumia, OLX, baahe.com, tisu, zoobashop, kaymu, ahonya, Ghanacar24.com, Cheki Ghana, Shopadollar, Hellofood, VIVIA, Dziffa.com and several others.
Their not being caught up in the consumption tax net has given e-commerce channels further price advantages. However the commencement of taxation of e-commerce will remove that advantage as taxes charged will largely ,if not entirely, be passed on to consumers.
The Commissioner General of GRA, Mr Ammishaddai Owusu Amoah has indicated that while other sectors are being hit hard by the COVID- 19 pandemic, others like the communication, electronic payments and the e-commerce sectors are gaining tremendously.
“Today, data is one thing we are all consuming, therefore, we expect that those in that sector should see their revenues going up.” He said.
The Commissioner General noted, “at the moment, we have still not started taxing e-commerce. It is one of the things that are already in our strategic plan that we are working on for this year and therefore we will come out with a plan at the right time.”
With dwindling revenue collection due to COVID-19, the authority is re-strategizing with the Finance Ministry to set a new tax target, as the GHc55 billion target for 2020 looks unattainable with midyear insight.
As part of upcoming strategies, the GRA is currently putting mechanisms in place to automate the payment of VAT through the Integrated Tax Application end-to-end platform and other initiatives.