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17.08.2005 General News

Taxpayers must do honest business with government.


Tema, Aug. 17, GNA -- Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, on Wednesday stressed the need for taxpayers to appreciate government efforts to facilitate trade, and do honest business with it.

"As partners in revenue generation, you must provide genuine documents in your business transactions."

Mr. Baah-Wiredu made the call when he launched Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) Tax Education at the forecourt of CEPS Longroom at Tema.

The launch dubbed: CEPS Compliance Months (August-December), which is part of its on-going sensitisation efforts to bridge the gap between the nation's revenue authorities and the business community, was attended by stakeholders, including transistors, clearing and forwarding agents, inspection companies and port authorities, among others.

The theme for the occasion was: "Compliance: A Prerequisite for Effective Mobilization of Customs Duties and Taxes".

Mr Baah-Wiredu reminded taxpayers that their contributions in the form of tax payment would go a long way to push the economy and the nation forward.

He urged CEPS officials to intensify their public education campaign to ensure compliance of the operations of the service.

"Ghanaians need to know their rights and responsibilities under tax laws of this country", the Finance Minister emphasised.

He expressed optimism that the activities lined up for this five-months education period, would be far-reaching and effective not only to increase understanding of CEPS operations, but to also minimize malfeasance, increase compliance, and in the long run, maximize the much-needed tax revenue.

Mr Baah-Wiredu charged CEPS officials to plug all loopholes and help reduce revenue leakages to the barest minimum. He further charged them to devise strategies that would make the system even better and more user-friendly.

While commending CEPS for its achievements over the years, the Finance Minister, notwithstanding chastised the Service for operational lapses. He therefore, warned members of the service against negative tendencies, saying they must cease forthwith, to help the growth of the economy.

Mr. Kwadwo Affram Asiedu, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry pointed out that creating an environment for compliance by exporters, importers and manufacturers, among others, to eliminate commercial fraud and maximize revenue collection by CEPS for economic development, was very dear to the government.

Mr Asiedu charged CEPS to come out with a customs clearance procedure that would take full advantage of the two giant fixed scanners installed at Tema Port under the Destination Inspection Scheme. "The maximum use of the scanners can lead to the detection of contraband goods such as drugs, arms and ammunitions, as well as other unmanifest goods", he stressed.

The Deputy Minister tasked the Commissioner of CEPS to take advantage of the relevant sections of the CEPS Management Law, to come out with the appropriate Commissioner's Order, to adequately sanction importers or agents who present fake or falsified documents to the inspection companies.

Mr Asiedu called for collaboration between CEPS officers and their counterparts at the Ghana Standards Board, to ensure the proper labelling in English of high-risk imports, and the confiscation and destruction of sub-standard and counterfeited products. He assured CEPS that under the Trade Sector Support Programme designed as a capacity-building initiative to implement the National Trade Policy, the service would be given the needed technical assistance and support to streamline its import and export clearance documentation and procedures.

This, the Deputy Trade and Industry Minister hoped would not only enhance operational efficiency and promote compliance, but would also make the import-export regime more transparent, predictable and supportive of the private sector.

Mr Kofi Mbiah, Chief Executive of the Ghana Shippers Council who chaired the function, pointed out that more often than not, shippers complained of bureaucracy and cumbersome customs procedures, forgetting that the more they failed to comply with laid down rules and regulations on duty and tax payments, the more new rules were introduced to ensure compliance and avoid revenue leakages.

He pledged the council's preparedness to complement the efforts of CEPS, by continuing with the education of shippers on the need to adhere to compliance.

Mr Mbiah urged customs officials to ensure that shippers had fore knowledge of what the legitimate cost of clearance would be, before arriving at the port to clear their goods.

Where possible, he suggested, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning should consider a reduction in some duty levels where appropriate, and fix duty levels for defined periods of time so as to create some level of certainty for importers and exporters, to ensure compliance. He appealed to the Ministry to ensure that customs officers operated under secure and safe conditions.