The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has rolled out a tax incentive scheme for taxpayers to help cushion businesses and people against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The scheme involves waiving the penalty and the accrued interest on tax arrears for both corporate and individual taxpayers as a motivation for them to regularise their tax obligations during the crisis period.
The package from the authority took effect from April this year and allowed people and institutions that had either not registered with the GRA or breached the tax payment and the filing of returns schedules to apply to the authority for waivers. It followed the passage of the Penalty and Interest Waiver Act, 2021 (Act 1065) that allowed the GRA to grant waivers to taxpayers for penalty and interest on accumulated tax arrears up to December 31, last year. Interested people have between now and September 30 to apply for the waiver from the tax collection and administration body.
The authority was responding to a Daily Graphic enquiry about Act 1065, which in part says: “A person who takes advantage of this limited-time opportunity will not be liable to prosecution or face any other enforcement action with respect to the tax due for the relevant period.”
It explained that the waiver was applicable to taxpayers who had not previously registered with the GRA but now wanted to benefit from the waiver. It said such people would have to apply for registration as taxpayers and “make full disclosure of the necessary information for assessment”.
“The waiver is also applicable to persons registered with the GRA but who have not submitted or filed the required tax returns or have defaulted in the submission of tax returns or are in arrears for the payment of taxes,” it said.
It noted further that the waiver was not applicable to “a person who has failed to comply with the provisions of any law administered by the Commissioner-General that relates to the furnishing of a tax return or payment of a tax due from January 1, 2021”.
“It is, however, important to note that the waiver does not apply to payments and returns due from January 1, 2021,” it explained.
The GRA advised taxpayers and prospective ones to take advantage of the programme to regularise their tax obligations by applying for the waiver from any of the taxpayer service centres (TSCs) or Post Clearance Audit, Customs Division, nationwide. It said applicants were required to submit returns or amended returns and make full disclosure of undisclosed liabilities relating to the period up to December 31, 2020.
It added that the application must also include the payment or payment arrangements to pay all resulting taxes, as well as the payment or payment arrangements to pay assessed and outstanding taxes.
Benefits to taxpayers
A policy by the government, the penalty and interest waiver was first announced in the 2021 Budget Statement as an incentive package to help revitalise businesses and help them back to conformity with tax laws after the COVID-19 pandemic affected their fortunes .A Professor of Economics, Prof. Peter Quartey, told the Daily Graphic yesterday that the initiative was a booster to both taxpayers and the economy. He said the COVID-19 had affected the cash flow of businesses so much that it made it difficult for some of them to be able to honour their tax obligations fully. By granting taxpayers amnesty, he said, the government, through the GRA, was hand-holding them out of challenges to a point where they would be stronger again to continue to honour their tax obligations.
“When you visit some of these firms, you notice that because of the impact of the COVID-19, some of them struggle to even pay their workers. It means that their ability to pay taxes is limited and so giving them this temporary relief will give them additional income to continue to operate and be able to pay taxes in the long run,” he said.
The Director of the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, Legon added that the waiver programme would also reduce the cost of litigation between the GRA and defaulting taxpayers to the economy.
“Ultimately, this will benefit businesses and they will be able to create and sustain jobs and increase tax payments in the long run,” he added.
The GRA projects to collect GH¢57 billion in non-oil tax revenue this year, after collecting GH¢47 billion in 2020.