Saturday, 3 March 2018

Tax stamp implementation: turf war looms among stakeholders

Image result for tax stamp cigarette 

Adnan Adams Mohammed

Despite all efforts by the implementing agency of the new tax stamp policy, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), to ensure compliance, the affected parties are not cooperating and are unwilling to comply.

GRA, which inspected the businesses expected to emboss the tax stamp on their products last week Thursday, the very day the policy became effective, realized that, many of the businesses were simply not ready to comply.

The GRA, therefore, gave the manufacturers and importers of excisable goods a three-day ultimatum to fix the tax stamps on their products or have their goods seized.

The introduction of the tax stamp has been met with stiff opposition from key business associations who say they are unable to bear the additional cost of affixing the stamps on their products.

But the GRA insists the policy is necessary to stop tax evasion.

Meanwhile the President of the Ghana Bottled Water Producers Association, Magnus Nunoo, has urged all members to remain calm despite the introduction of the excise tax stamp policy.

Apparently, members of the Association say they will on March 5 meet to decide a possible shutdown if the tax stamp regime negatively affects their finances.

This decision was reached on last week Wednesday after a meeting to ascertain if members were ready for the implementation of the Tax Stamp Policy.

It was confirmed that none of the member companies of the Association had been able to acquire the tax affixing machine as of the eve of the implementation of the policy.

The policy requires manufacturing companies to acquire tax stamp machines but the Bottled Water Producers in a press release said “members are not in a position to acquire the machine”.

They said they have resolved in their meeting to access the government tax stamp affixing machine in Tema in the meantime.

However, they said there are some looming inconveniences that will negatively affect their business for which reason they will meet again on Monday to assess the situation and shut down if need be.

Meanwhile, in an interview on Friday, Mr Nunoo said: “I have been part of the discussion on policy and we are in constant talks on how best we can roll it out.”

“No member of the association should engage in any illegality. If you have any concern, channel it to the leadership of the association. There is no cause of alarm.”

Briefing the media before the tour, the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Emmanuel Kofi Nti said the policy will also help to address the introduction of counterfeit products on the Ghanaian market and enable government benefit from the excise tax.

He was optimistic, the intense public education given by the GRA on the role of stakeholders in the implementation process will help the public to understand its importance and co-operate with GRA.

A visit to the Oxford Street Mall in Osu however showed most locally produced alcoholic beverages were without the stamp.

Foreign products including tobacco and alcoholic wines on the other hand had the labels.

Commenting on the development, Chief Revenue Officer for GRA, Kwabena Apau Anto said local manufacturers will enjoy a three month grace period to enable them label their products before putting them on the Ghanaian market.

According to him, GRA is currently giving away free stamps to retailers and manufacturers for six months, after which the stamps will be sold.

“People think we are not serious about this exercise but we are. Inspection starts today and anyone who is caught defaulting will either have their products seized or be imprisoned for a period of five years. Now, all you have to do as a retailer is to write to the Ghana Revenue Authority requesting for the number of stamps you need and they will be sent to you.

“Since the exercise is ongoing at the various harbors, products coming in are already labelled. We just need our local manufactures to take this serious and come on board so we can generate enough revenue for the country.”

Some retailers who were unhappy with the exercise expressed their displeasure, their concerns being that they were not informed as far as the directive is concerned and hence the continuous sale of products without the stamps. They pleaded for more time to get their products stamped.

In accordance with the Provisions of the Excise Tax Stamp Act, 2013 (Act 873) specified excisable products which are imported or locally produced, are required to be affixed with Tax Stamps with specific features designed and supplied by the Ghana Revenue Authority before they are delivered ex-factory, cleared from any port of entry or presented for sale at any commercial level in Ghana.

As part of measures to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the Tax Stamp programme, all importers and manufacturers of the affected products are required to register with the GRA.

The registration is mandatory under section 4 of the Act and it shall among others, enable GRA grant user access to the Tax Stamp Portal to the registered taxpayers for the administration of the programme.