You’re not above paying taxes – Akufo-Addo tells lawyers
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has bemoaned the non-conformance of lawyers in the country regarding the payment of taxes for national development.
“They (lawyers) appear to think that being members of the learned profession puts them above compliance with everyday civic duties like paying taxes,” Akufo-Addo said.
He said that the act of lawyers evading taxes was “embarrassing” and expressed worry that lawyers were often on top of the list of those who flout the tax laws and use expertise to avoid payment.
The president sounded a caution to professionals in every sector of the economy, particularly lawyers who would soon “be receiving friendly phone calls from the tax authorities.”
He, therefore, advised them to swiftly move towards regularising their tax affairs before the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) comes after them and make them face the rigours of the law.
He noted that if the country is to get “the developments that we all crave, then paying taxes must become a regular and unquestioning feature of our lives.”
He was speaking at the 2021 Conference of the Ghana Bar Association (BAR) in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region.
The conference was on the theme: “Ensuring an increase in revenue mobilization through taxation for the purpose of accelerated national development: the role of the lawyer.”
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, shared the sentiments expressed by the president and said, “It is sad to say that many lawyers are caught in the phenomenon of tax evasion”.
He explained that they unjustifiably avoid being caught in the tax net by understating their profits or concealing their true incomes.
“The luxurious lifestyles of certain lawyers, riding in the plushest of vehicles and acquiring top-end properties, are hardly commensurate with the amount of taxes they pay,” he bemoaned.
“I entreat lawyers to honour the fullest of their tax obligations, as not to do is not only criminal but also bothers on a gross violation of professional rules,” the Attorney General urged.
“The legal professional conduct and ethical rules require lawyers to demonstrate the highest level of ethical behaviour and integrity at all times,” Mr Dame pointed out.
The Ghana Revenue Authority is going after some 5,000 wealthy Ghanaians who have been evading taxes, despite operating different levels of businesses in the country.
At a press briefing in Accra on July 28, the Assistant Commissioner of GRA, Dr Charles Addae, said these individuals include lawyers, doctors, engineers, computer scientists, financial service professionals, executives.
Revenue mobilisation strategies
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to raise more revenue for the government’s developmental projects and support economic transformation, Dr Addae said the authority had taken several measures to that effect.
This includes leveraging third-party data to enhance compliance through cross-referencing GRA tax data against institutions such as the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SNNIT), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).
The authority is also optimising domestic tax collection operations through digitisation. This, it expects to increase tax revenue collection efficiency.
GRA would achieve this through enhanced compliance measures, strengthening tax administration, and improving the ease of doing business.
In addition to this is the integration of TIN with the NIA card number. In this regard, on April 1, 2021, GRA collaborated with the Registrar-General’s Department (RGD) and the NIA to replace the existing TIN with the Ghana Card number.
According to the authority, this has simplified analysing and mining the NIA data to enable GRA to identify opportunities for additional taxpayers.