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2024 Budget to focus on jobs, economy expansion amidst tax review calls by businesses

Adnan Adams Mohammed

Ghana’s Parliament awaits the presentation of the 2024 fiscal budget and economic policies of government on November 15, 2023.

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, announced the date during a parliamentary session, last week.

The Minister of Finance has already indicated that, the government intends introducing some strategies in the 2024 budget to propel job creation.

“As part of the 2024 budget, the government will also roll out a strategy to complement the micro-fiscal reforms we are implementing under the IMF programmes”, Ken Ofori-Atta said at the Ghana Mutual Prosperity dialogue held inAccra, last week.

“This is to ensure the growth of jobs and critical components of the economy,” he added.

Apparently, key stakeholders of the economy have called for review of many tax policies to facilitate government’s aim of creating more jobs while expanding the economy.

To this, the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL) has said the government must urgently review nuisance taxes, particularly excise duties on the beverage industry.

A statement from the federation signed by Secretary-General Abraham Koomson, said this has to be announced in the 2024 budget.

It said: “These burdensome taxes have hindered economic growth, stifled business development, and placed an unfair burden on hardworking Ghanaians and effective operation of industries”.

“It is imperative that the government takes immediate action to alleviate these challenges and foster a more conducive environment for businesses and workers”, the federation stressed.

It noted: “The GFL firmly believes that the review of nuisance taxes and excise duties stated above is an urgent necessity”.

“These taxes, often excessive and unnecessary, have impeded the growth and competitiveness of local businesses, stifling Innovation, investment, and job creation”.

“The burden they impose on businesses is detrimental to their sustainability and ability to contribute to the economic development of Ghana. It is time for the government to acknowledge the adverse effects of these taxes and take decisive action to address them.”

Also, the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), is calling for the withdrawal of both the COVID-19 Levy and the Special Import Levy in the yet to be read 2024 budget.

Specifically, GUTA wants the removal of the 1% COVID-19 Levy, the 2% Special Import Levy, and addressing the complex nature of Value Added Tax (VAT). The COVID-19 Health Recovery Levy was introduced in 2021 as a standalone tax applied to the gross value of taxable goods and services provided under the Standard Rate and VAT Flat Rate Schemes.

“Reducing the cost of doing business would lead to increased productivity and better revenue collection for the government’, Dr Joseph Obeng, the President of GUTA justified their demand.

Also, the Food and Beverage Association of Ghana has outcried that, the business sector is currently riddled with too many taxes, levies, duties and indeed an overtaxed economy, thereby stifling growth.

Members of the Association believe that the government stands to rake in more revenue for development if taxes are reduced and some are cancelled.

John Awuni, the executive chairman of the association at a press conference said “We strongly advocate for major tax cuts and the cancellation of some taxes in the 2024 fiscal year. This will spur the gains the economy has started making to sustainable levels”.

Currently, he said the “prices of goods and services are very high consequently reducing the demand for these goods and services. Considering the level of low wages and salaries in the country, the government can trigger higher demand for goods and services in the private sector if taxes are reviewed downwards.”

For its immense role it plays in the financial sector of the economy, the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association wants the government to exempt them from paying taxes to protect the investments unions.

Board Chairman of GCUA, Dr Bernard Bingab, explains that all African countries exempt co-operatives from tax. However, in recent years the Ghana Revenue Authority has clamped down on credit unions asking some to pay as high as one million cedis.

“This is a group that is there to help the country. Monies that we take as credit unions get back to the pool, so, we have difficulty as to why other African countries have exempted co-operatives and yet the credit unions are being asked to pay tax”, Dr Bingab said during the 55th-anniversary of the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association at Koforidua in the Eastern region, last week.

“One of my biggest appeals to our government is tax exemptions for co-operatives”.

Notably, another key player or contributors to the Ghanaian economy is the hospitality industry. This, the Ghana Hotels Association (GHA) has also bemoaned the recent hikes in utility tariffs, taxes, and levies, saying “they are incredibly crippling the hospitality industry.”

The industry already suffered tremendous losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, and instead of helping to rebound faster, the Government had slapped it with hefty taxes, particularly property rates, which had deepened its woes, the Association said.

According to players, one of their major headaches is the property rate regime currently being implemented by the Ghana Revenue Authority, which they describe as a “killer to the sector’s rebound.”

“How could a facility that pays a property rate of GH¢700 suddenly rise to GH¢20,000 or from GH¢1,800 to GH¢50,000? We are not against the increase and the collection by GRA, but we are against the astronomical increases killing our businesses,” Isaac Nkoom, the immediate past Central Regional Chairman of the GHA said in an interview reacting to the current state of the industry.

“We do not know how they arrived at those sharp increases and, as far as we remain stakeholders, we expected some consultations on operational modalities before implementation.”

“This must certainly change for our mutual gain. The entire arrangement appears we are being punished for owning businesses because the rates do not reflect the reality of our business.”

The challenges had also been exacerbated by 20 multiple and duplicate taxes and levies, which were “suffocating the growth of the sector.”

“These include the NHIL, VAT, GETfund, COVID-19 levy, GTA levy, EPA Levy, FDA levy, MMDAs levy, Fire Service levy, and one percent tourism levy.”

“Others are SSNIT for staff, data protection levy, property rates, suitability report levy, and GHAMRO levy, all of which contribute to the pricing mechanisms.”

Mr Nkoom expressed regret over the burden those taxes put on industry operators and said the GHA had no option but to honour all tax obligations, in addition to the cost of maintenance, utilities, and the payment of salaries.

He urged the Government to consider the reduction in VAT charges as the hotel business was gradually grinding to a halt due to very low patronage, because of the economic hardship.

Apparently, the Finance Ministry is scheduled to present the 2024 budget to Parliament in November.

In the lead-up to the presentation, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta has engaged with various interest groups, including GUTA.

Minister Ofori-Atta acknowledged the concerns raised by these groups, particularly regarding the high tax rates in the country.

He assured that their concerns would be taken into consideration before the budget presentation.

Meanwhile, Speaker Bagbin emphasised the importance of scrutinising the budget to ensure it meets the needs of all Ghanaians. He called for a consultative and consensus-building approach during the process, highlighting the Parliament’s demonstrated capacity and experience in budget approval deliberations.

The Speaker also stressed the urgency of passing the budget bill, as it would enable Parliament to engage additional technical personnel, aligning the institution with the imperatives of recent legislations passed by the house.

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