Accra, Nov. 19, GNA - The Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) on Saturday said it had as at the end of October collected about nine trillion cedis and was set to achieve the 12.5 trillion cedis target for 2005.
CEPS says it believed that the last quarter was its "cocoa season" when imports increased and, therefore, it was determined to tackle acts of smuggling and evading of duties in order to optimise revenue collection to meet the target.
It said a huge chunk of revenue was lost through various leakages including abuse of transit trade, smuggling, under-declaring of goods and fraud.
This came to the fore when journalist were taken to some entry points where some individuals had tried to evade tax and to see the wares and items that have been confiscated through the vigilance of CEPS personnel.
This exercise formed part of CEPS' ongoing education on tax compliance aimed at arming the importing public or traders with the right knowledge about its operations and the requirements expected from the public when dealing with the Service.
Some of the points toured by the journalist included the Makola market, where smuggled imitation wax prints originating from Asia are sold cheaply to the public, thus rendering the locally produced ones like the Akosombo Textile uncompetitive.
Textile traders at Makola were peeved when they saw the CEPS officials, with some accusing them of allowing in the cheap imports, which had taken them out of business, since people preferred to buy the imported cloths because of the price difference.
For instance, a GTP wax print sold between 250,000 cedis and 300,000 cedis but the imitated one from Asia, particularly China, that have the same designs as those produced locally sold at between 60,000 cedis and 80,000 cedis for a half piece.
Mr Nicholas Tawiah Okpora, a Principal Collector, Preventive at the CEPS Headquarters, who accompanied the journalist, explained that law stipulated that all textiles imported into the country should come through the Takoradi Harbour, but smugglers have been transporting the goods through the eastern corridor, thus evading tax and making the imports cheap.
He said CEPS had this year intercepted more than 50,000 pieces of wax prints with a tax liability of more than three billion cedis. At the Cargo Village at the Kotoka International Airport, Mr Emmanuel Impraim, a Chief Collector, and the Deputy Sector Commander, KIA, took the team to the Aviance Import Warehouse where CEPS had impounded 2,547 and 1,086 assorted mobile phones concealed in suitcases and designated by its importers as mobile phone accessories and personal effects.
Mr Impraim said that due to the vigilance of CEPS officials at KIA, the goods were intercepted.
The Service has slapped duties and penalties of 300 per cent of the actual duty on the items amounting to 1.7 billion cedis. When the team got to Tema, Mr Sam Yankyera, Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Team Collection, said smuggling and evasion of tax by some importers were militating against revenue mobilization for the State.
Some arrests carried out recently revealed that Ghanaians had resorted to describing goods meant for home consumption as transit cargo in order to avoid the payment of import duties.
He said that some of the tricks used by importers to evade tax include consigning goods to known foreign names in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali and forging Ghanaian transit stickers. Some importers also front for foreigners and assist them to evade taxes.
Mr Impraim said some of the transit goods had been traced to a popular market in the country.
A 20-foot container with bicycle parts and 40-foot container with assorted leather goods that were being smuggled out from Tema Port as transit goods have been impounded through the vigilance of CEPS officials.
He said other importers were also taking advantage of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Goods and Services to bring in vehicles through Togo.
The vehicles were meant to return to Togo after 90 days of stay but this had become an avenue for Ghanaians to bring in vehicles through Lome or through unapproved routes in order to evade import duties, Mr Impriam said.
He noted that the abuse of temporary importation regime was rampant at the eastern and western frontiers. However some of these un-customed vehicles have been traced and seized. Mr Impriam, therefore, urged the Management of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority to start using the CEPS database GCNet system to help to check such acts.
CEPS has also set up a special taskforce to smoke out tax evaders. The Assistant Commissioner outlined the new requirements for clearing of vehicles to include the need for importers to show certificates of title, origin, retail sales, bill of sales or any official authorised evidence of bona fide ownership. He said the Destination Inspection Companies had also become an avenue for fraud through the use of fake invoices and urged such companies to live up to expectation and show due diligence in the discharge of their duties.
AS part of control measures, the CEPS network system under the GCNet is working on a route mapping and tracking system to monitor transit goods to the exit points while the Gateway Secretariat is also working on a private-public investment for electronic tracking. Mr Impriam said the Service had also stepped up its anti-smuggling activities while taskforces had been established to monitor and check tax evasion and weed out saboteurs, including CEPS officials from the system.
He said CEPS was also looking at the possibility relocating its personnel very often in order to stop people, who become familiar with them from colluding with the officials to defraud the State. The Assistant Commissioner warned that any CEPS official caught in any act of malfeasance would be made to face the law. He said that with all these measures, CEPS would achieve its target for the year.
CEPS collects about 55 per cent of total national revenue, which is made up of import duties, VAT and other agency levies and fees. The Tema Collection accounts for 70 per cent of CEPS total collection.