The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has served notice it will be taxing street beggars as part of moves to widen the tax net.
The exercise will also target individuals, especially women selling Dubai Wax prints and other imports through door-to-door and neighboring nationals trading on bicycles in the Northern region.
The Principal Revenue Chief at the Small Tax Payer Office of the GRA in the Northern region Alhaji Yahaya Mohammed told journalists that some individuals occupying the streets are now harvesting a lot of daily earnings that fall within the tax threshold.
“Those who carry things on their heads to sell (hawkers) be it cloth or consumables, we will tax them. How much more people who earn daily,” the Revenue Officer said.
“GRA taxes foreigners in town and by law, the beggars fall within the taxable threshold,” Alhaji Mohammed stressed. Adding that those into alms taking as a form of business should be ready to pay tax on their earnings.
Alhaji Yahaya, however, acknowledged the cumbersomeness of the task ahead. He added it was necessary to widen the tax net in order to pluck more revenue.
He said some of the beggars have acquired assets and are making the “begging business” attractive.
“It is difficult to tax them. But if they get the understanding that they are supposed to pay something to the government based on the income they earn, it will help,” the principal STO revenue officer stated.
The officer could not give an estimate of a daily income of the beggars. But he strongly believed their earnings were more than enough to be taxed.
Hundreds of people have circled the Tamale Business District begging in the streets and pavements. The individuals mostly the aged are living with disability and are women nursing or nurturing babies.
A large number of these beggars are coming from Mali and Niger who entered into Ghana after fleeing from insecurity and hostile economic conditions.
Response By GRA
The Ghana Revenue Authority wishes to react to reports in the media that the authority intends to tax street beggars among others previously not captured in the tax net, in its bid to widen the tax net.
The authority wishes to inform the general public with regards to the position of the law on taxation of persons as stated in the Income Tax Act 2015, (Act 896) as follows:
* The Income Tax Act states that the chargeable income of a person for a year of assessment is the total of the assessable income of that person for the year from each employment, business or investment.
* The Act also indicates that when a person has no chargeable income or the income is below the taxable threshold, the person is not expected to pay tax and therefore does not file tax returns.
With regards to the above, it must be stated that alms received by beggers on the street does not fall within the taxable threshold. They, therefore, do not pay tax on the alms received.
While GRA encourages staff to actively mobilize revenue for the state, the Authority does not encourage them to pursue taxes that may appropriately be considered as nuisance.
The Commissioner-General, therefore, wishes to assure the general public that the GRA implements only laws passed by Parliament and will not carry out activities that have no legal backing.
Kwasi Bobie-Ansah (Assistant Commissioner)
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