The world’s economy has currently come under intense pressure as a result of the novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19). This pandemic has affected most economies, of which Ghana is no exception. Governments all over the world including Ghana, have had to take bold and drastic measures in order to stabilize their economies amidst a drastic fall in government revenues. The private sector has also had its fair share of the negative effects of COVID-19.
My attention has been drawn unto lots of pressure being exerted by businesses and employees on the Government of Ghana to either relieve or waive off some taxes temporarily during the period. However, this may not be an easy decision for any government to take due to fallen revenues and increased unbudgeted expenditures that the COVID-19 has brought unto these governments.
This article is intended to educate and draw the attention of resident individuals in Ghana to already existing and improved tax incentive packages that are enshrined in Ghana’s Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896) as amended by The Income Tax Act 2019 (Act 1007) so that individuals can take advantage of these tax incentives called “Personal Reliefs” which could be claimed through The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to cushion such individuals financially, during and even after these unusual times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personal Tax Reliefs
“Personal Reliefs” are legally approved allowable deductions enshrined in the tax laws of Ghana intended to reduce the Chargeable Income of resident persons in order to lessen the person’s tax liability. These personal reliefs have existed in our tax laws for a long while but most individual tax payers in Ghana either have no knowledge of their existence or due to their previous insignificant financial impact, most tax payers ignored them.
However, these personal reliefs have since 01 January 2020 been significantly enhanced and increased by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and hence it is a good time now for taxpayers to take advantage of these personal reliefs to their benefit especially during these COVID-19 times.
Reference is made to the Fifth Schedule of Act 896 of The Income Tax Act 2015(as amended), Personal Reliefs to individuals have since 01 January 2020 been revised as follows:
|Type of Reliefs||Previous Relief GH¢||Current Relief GH¢|
|Marriage / Responsibility||200||1,200 per year|
|Old Age||200||1,500 per year|
|Child Education||200||600 per child per year|
|Aged Dependent Relative||100||1,000 per year|
|Professional Training||400||2,000 per year|
|Disability||25% of Assessable Income from employment or business|
An Analysis of Current Personal Reliefs
Below are further specific and practical explanations to the above current reliefs and conditions that must be fulfilled in order to qualify for any of these personal reliefs.
1. Marriage / Responsibility relief: A person is married for tax purposes when he/she has obtained a valid marriage certificate upon marriage (whether through an ordinance, customary, or Islamic marriage). Both couples cannot claim the same marriage relief. Only one of the spouses can claim at a time in a year. Responsibility, which is equated to marriage, is evident when a person has at least two (2) dependent children.
2. Old Age: A person is old aged for tax purposes when he/she is 60 years and above.
3. Child Education: This relief is granted to a person who has enrolled his/her dependent children in recognized registered educational institutions in Ghana. This relief is limited to a maximum of three (3) children only. The children could be biological or otherwise, only that there must be evidence that the person claiming the relief is the one funding the education of the children.
4. Aged Dependent Relative: This relief is granted to a person who caters for relatives who are 60 years and above. These aged relatives must be dependent on the person claiming the relief. The relief is limited to a maximum of two (2) dependent relatives.
5. Professional Training: This relief is granted to a person who has undergone a training programme during the year in order to upgrade the person’s technical, professional and vocational knowledge and skill. The training must seek to improve the already existing skills the person applying for the relief has acquired and is being used in the person’s current role in his/her employment or business. Any form of academic training (Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees) does not qualify for this relief.
6. Disability relief: A disabled person is a person with a physical, mental or sensory impairment including visual, hearing or speech functional disability which gives rise to physical, cultural or social barriers which substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities. The person must have a valid certificate of disability as issued by a recognized governmental institution or upon satisfactory proof to the Commissioner-General that the person is disabled.
Other general conditions
1. To qualify for any of the above reliefs, the person must file his/her tax returns at the end of the year of assessment.
2. Personal Reliefs must be specifically applied for by the person before they could be granted.
3. The reliefs can be claimed up front on a monthly basis if the source of income is from employment or at the end of the year of assessment in the case of business income.
4. The amount per each relief is absolute in nature and not relative. This means it does not matter the amount of a person’s annual/monthly salary, the same amount of the relief is available for grabs. For example, take a person who has a monthly assessable income of say
GH¢500. If this person is married, has 3 dependent children who attend recognized registered educational institutions, takes care of her two aged parents, and has undergone a professional training during the year, this person’s total personal relief will amount to GH¢7,000. You will notice that this person’s total annual personal relief far exceeds his/her total assessable income from employment or business. This will mean the person will effectively not pay any tax during the year. This is a significant cash savings.
5. Personal relief not claimed during a year cannot be differed into future years.
6. Non-resident individuals are not eligible for personal reliefs unless there exists a double taxation arrangement between the person’s country of residency and Ghana.
7. The Commissioner-General must be satisfied with the evidence provided by individuals in relation to a specific relief being applied for. Hence, a personal relief applied for could be rejected if The Commissioner-General is unsatisfied with the evidence provided by the taxpayer.
Personal reliefs are legal means of planning the tax affairs of resident individuals in Ghana and leads to significant cash savings especially during these unusual times of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the significant increment of these already existing personal tax reliefs, it is encouraged that all resident individuals whose source of income is from employment and business and who file their tax returns, must take advantage of these incentives in our tax laws to improve their personal finances.
The writer Richmond Ofori-Boafo, M.Sc., CA (GH.), is a Chartered Accountant and a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (Ghana)