GRA obtains data on Ghanaians holding foreign accounts

GRA Commissioners General, Dr. Rev. Ammishaddi Owusu-Amoah

The Commissioner General of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Dr. Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, has stated that the Authority had received the first data of Ghanaians and other residents who have bank accounts outside the country.

The data, he said, would help the Authority leverage tax revenue mobilisation or increase revenue opportunity. Although details of how the Authority would harness the data received were not communicated, he told The Chronicle in an interview that a news conference would be organised, specifically in that regard.

However, he stated that the silver lining of the information was that Ghana had become a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and had moved to satisfy all the technology and security requirements for the automatic exchange of information between member states.

The Commissioner-General made the revelation on day 2 of the Youth Economic Forum (YEF), organised by the Business and Financial Times (B&FT), under the theme: “Building a robust and resilient economy through technology, finance, investment, trade and entrepreneurship,” in Accra last Tuesday.

By virtue of Ghana signing with the OECD, it would be allowed to receive automatic information from 71 countries about Ghanaians and others living abroad with accounts outside the jurisdiction. The aggressive posture of the GRA is to leave no stone unturned since the OECD system “is automatic and I can tell you that we have received the first data, and these are things we are doing to increase revenue opportunity.”

The requirement of citizens living abroad to file their annual tax returns is a practice accepted in many jurisdictions, including the United States. Similarly, the OECD is an international organisation that works to build better policies to enhance livelihoods through improving economic performance, creating jobs fostering strong education, and fighting international tax evasion.

‘There is money here, and we can collect’

Discussing a sub-topic – Reducing the fiscal gap: An approach to improving government revenue at the plenary, he further disclosed that a recent initiative taken by the Authority to assign officers to retail shops was yielding good fruits.

According to him, 69% of 59 businesses were found short-changing the government, citing that a company that filed GH¢1.2 million as revenue collected for June, GH¢1.5 million in July, and GH¢1.5 million in August was found in September to be making in excess of over GH¢3.7 million.

Dr. Owusu-Amoah stated that most of these businesses had two books, one in which they keep actual figures for themselves, and another with understated revenue for the GRA.

He warned that the days whereby individuals chose to evade tax would soon be over with the coming into force of the electronic invoicing law, which was passed in 2016, but was implemented in 2022.

“There is money here, and we can collect,” he said. “We have come out with a system…and with a USB code you put in your phone, you are going to tell whether you are tax compliant or not. When you dial *800#, it will ask you for your Ghana Card number; it will tell you whether you are tax compliant or not.

“We will make this system available to many of the government institutions and agencies, and we are proposing that some of these laws must be amended such that if you want to renew your driving license, [and] road worthy when you go there and they tap into your Ghana Card, it will tell you whether you are tax compliance or not. If you are not compliant you cannot renew.”

Nevertheless, the Director of Research at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Dr. John K. Kwakye believes the effort of the government and the GRA to mobilize resources for development is not enough because there are too many loopholes and administrative inefficiencies in the system.

He wants the government to do away with the exemption regime, which hurting the economy so much. Others who spoke at the plenary were Professor Godfred Alufar Bokpin, a Finance professor at the University of Ghana and Seth Terkper, former Minister for Finance under the erstwhile Mahama regime.


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