The E-Levy Polemic

“If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:…  Yours is the Earth and everything in It, And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Rudyard Kipling: ‘IF’

We love poetry, and you can call us aesthetes, rhymers, lyricists. Besides Shakespeare, John Donne, Oscar Wilde, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Wordsworth, Mark Twain, Waldo Emerson, Yeats, Tennyson, Eliot, Milton and Homer, Rudyard Kipling is one of the “greats” we admire.

Kipling’s 32-line poem ‘IF’, is an agglomeration of suggestions on how to cope with different situations in life, and most importantly, how to run one’s life during a crisis. Be thrifty, and have courage; do not lose your rationality; but do not get over-confident, be patient and welcome opposing ideas. Know that on your path to success, you may encounter failures.

The axioms of meaningful life include: composure, integrity, modesty, patience, determination, and control. You may call these the ideal modus operandi in life.

The word ‘if’ can be contrasted with ‘when’. While ‘if” is concerned with probability, (a situation may happen or it may not), ‘when’ is concerned with time (positively, it will happen, the only thing we are expecting is the time).

Until something eerie or spooky happens, the E-Levy has come to stay. By Act 1075 the President has signed the E-Levy bill into law.

Like a turbofan jet, it took off on Sunday, May 1, 2022. Not without drama. There had been court room wrangling. Attorney-General, Godfred Dame, had to step in and argue: “There were only 274 validly elected parliamentarians and not 275, because the election of the Assin North Member of Parliament (MP), James Gyakye Quayson, had been cancelled.”

The Supreme Court had made a significant order directing the Ghana Revenue Authority to preserve the records generated since the levy’s implementation in May, 2022, after a unanimous 7-0 decision dismissing the application for injunction against the implementation of the levy.

Ex-President and one of the presidential aspirants for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama, says the NDC will cancel the E-Levy “if” they come to power in 2025: “We in the NDC do not oppose taxation as a principle. We will not be pretentious and couch fanciful slogans to condemn the principle of taxation like the New Patriotic Party (NPP) did in the past.

“We are, however, implacably opposed to distortionary and burdensome taxes like the E-Levy that only force Ghanaians to endure more suffering. A new National Democratic Congress government, God willing, and with the votes of the sovereign people of Ghana – in 2025 – will repeal the E-Levy Act.”

J.D. Mahama was delivering an address titled “Ghana at a Crossroads” on Monday, May 2, 2022, at the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel, Accra, in which he remembered “The Makers of Civilisation” he read as a young historian.

J.D. Mahama has spoken his mind, and why would anyone pour vituperations at him? Wouldn’t all of us be the winners “if” he came to power in 2025 and abolished the E-Levy – that is “if” he could find alternative measures to bolster the economy without depleting our little personal earnings: That is “if” he will win the general elections at all.

That is “if” his party will select or elect him as their flagbearer, given the moves by NDC bigwigs like Kwabena Duffour and Kojo Bonsu to challenge him; that is “if” he falls on a windfall, just as Prof. Atta Mills enjoyed the oil (adwengo) Kufuor sweated to find.

Meanwhile, an elated Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, says: “It is an exciting period of having a structural solution to revenue mobilisation in a way that we haven’t had before. All Ghanaians will also be paying something.”

Soft-spoken Ken admits of “teething” problems: “I don’t know of any programme which involves technology that will not have teething problems. But certainly, the cataclysmic pronunciation by our people on the other side is not happening.”

The well–composed minister notes: “We have discovered a tax handle which does two things – one, from GH¢78 billion of mobile money transfers to maybe almost a GH¢1 trillion last year, and you begin to see how e-commerce and technology become effective, that will be good for the country.

“And second, the sense of unfairness, some 2.4 million people are paying taxes because they are in the formal sector, and nobody else is paying, bringing everybody else onboard as small as it will be.”

You will be tempted to ask: “What about Ghana going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for credibility and support to deal with the current challenges of the economy?” A determined Minister of Finance says “No” to this proposal, wondering why the Bretton Woods folk would lure Ghana by decoys.

And another Mahama, Dr. Edward Nasigri Mahama, former presidential candidate of the People’s National Convention (PNC) has thrown in his support for the E-Levy: “If we solve our problems, I am for that (rather) than to go to IMF. I have hope in Ghana, and if Ghana does well, we will all be good.”

It is significant that the E-Levy Act which is Act 1075, the Electronic Transfer Levy Act, 2022, is “An Act to impose a levy to be known as the Electronic Transfer Levy on electronic transfers to enhance revenue mobilisation by broadening the tax base and to provide for related matters.”

The Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority is charged with the responsibility of administering and collecting the levy, and Section 5 of the Act says: “The Commissioner-General shall pay the levy collected under this Act into the Consolidated Fund.”

For the recovery of the levy, Section 6 of the Act provides (1) “for the purpose of enforcing the collection of the levy, the provisions of the Revenue Administration Act 2016 (Act 915) relating to collection and enforcement shall apply.

(2) “The Commissioner-General shall not contract a private service provider to provide, at a fee or commission, any revenue monitoring or revenue assurance service for the purpose of this Act” Section 8 specifies: “The minster may, by legislative instrument, make regulations to provide for the efficient and effective implementation of this Act.”

And Section 9 states: “The Commissioner-General may issue administrative guidelines as may be required for the efficient and effective implementation of this Act.”

The Finance Minister says he cannot give an assurance that the E-Levy will or will not be collateralised. “You know that collateralisation is bad. I will at each point in time, examine what we have and make a decision with cabinet as to how best we can use our resources as a country.”

(Collateralisation is the pledge of a valuable asset as collateral (by Antonio) to secure a loan (for Bassanio); and when the borrower defaults on the loan payment, the lender (Shylock) might seize the asset to offset the loss).

Is it preposterous to predict that the act is likely to undergo an amendment at this embryonic stage? We are all watching with eagle eyes – accountability, probity, transparency – to borrow the slogan of a political party which its apostles never lived by.  

From Africanus Owusu-Ansah