Blame GRA for behavioral late tax filing – ACEP

Benjamin Boakye, Executive Director, ACEP

The African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has said the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is to be blamed for the behavioral late tax filling by taxpayers.

ACEP stated that, the GRA contributes to the challenge due to its inability to provide timely and adequate guidance to taxpayers.

The Authority, ACEP mentioned, has been largely unsuccessful in aggressively pursuing filed but unpaid tax returns, which are not in dispute, as well as outstanding conceded tax returns that are in dispute.

“Consequently, penalties and interests on late payment cannot be enforced against the tax payer as poor coordination and communication among GRA’s segmented office structures also affect tax enforcement”, ACEP’s Executive Director, Benjamin Boakye, told the Goldstreet Business at a ‘Stakeholder’s workshop on addressing gaps to increase tax revenues in Ghana’.

Boakye explained that low monitoring and weak field audits by the GRA, (due to low staff capacity and skills) leaves illicit financial flows undetected, especially in the extractive sector, while the large informal sector remains under-taxed.

“GRA does not have adequate staff who have strong background in taxation. The authority has faced challenges recruiting and retaining qualified staff due to political interferences and unsuccessful recruitment strategies”, he said.

In a report on tax evasion and administration, released by ACEP this year, the Centre noted that the Domestic Tax Revenue Division (DTRD) of the GRA, lacks the requisite technology to effectively ascertain tax obligations of tax payers, particularly those in Ghana’s large informal sector.

The situation, the Centre explained, has been contributing to some GRA officials negotiating with some tax payers to fix tax returns, leading to unequitable tax imposition and tax evasion.

The report recommended a collaboration between the GRA and telecommunication companies to help generate contact database for taxpayers to whom automatic reminders about tax due dates would be communicated.

“The reminders should also contain information about sanctions for late payment or non-payment. This must be done concurrently with aggressive media campaign. The GRA may also encourage tax compliance through a reward mechanism for tax compliance” ACEP suggested.

ACEP also recommended that in the short term, the GRA may implement home-grown capacity building such as on-the-job training and in-house peer reviews, adding; “It may also poach top-notch experts from various fields including telecoms, oil and gas, finance, etc. into GRA.

“GRA’s strong collaboration with State agencies such as SSNIT, DVLA, and the Registrar General’s Department is necessary to get information to support its work” the report indicated.

By Wisdom Jonny-Nuekpe