The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has urged the newly inaugurated Independent Tax Appeals Board to champion the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism, to expedite the resolution of tax disputes to enhance government’s revenue mobilisation.
He said the current dispute resolution regime, which required a taxpayer to appeal to the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) on tax matters and go to the court if dissatisfied, ‘holds-up’ potential government revenue, generate costs and frustrates both the Authority and taxpayers.
ADR mechanisms, he explained, were accepted as a speedy and more cost effective approach to resolving tax disputes and instil confidence in investors and reduce the time spent on litigation for both taxpayers and the revenue administration.
Mr Ofori-Atta made the call in Accra last Friday during the inauguration of the first 11-member board, chaired by a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Lawrence Mensah.
Other members include Peter Kwame Abebrese, retired Deputy Commissioner of GRA; Mangowa Ghanney, private legal practitioner; Nii Ayi Aryeetey, tax practitioner; Justice Kwabena Asuman-Adu, retired Justice of the High Court; Emmanuel Obeng Asiedu, retired chartered accountant; Theophilus Tawiah, private legal practitioner; Dr Isaac Nyame, accounting and tax practitioner and Catherine Quainoo, and Fauziah Ibrahim, both representatives of the private sector.
The board, Mr Ofori-Atta noted, would ensure that tax disputes were resolved in a timely manner, as well as provide a more cost effective dispute resolution medium for both GRA and taxpayers.
Additionally, he said, it would instil confidence in investors by providing a neutral entity for the resolution of tax disputes, and relieve the Ministry of Finance from having to mediate or resolve tax disputes between GRA and taxpayers.
Mr Ofori-Atta asked the board to develop a strong tax dispute resolution system, capable of supporting the country’s revenue mobilisation drive.
He advised the Board to provide a fair and independent forum for dispute resolution between taxpayers and the GRA and take decisions based on the evidence presented and in accordance with the law.
Mr Ofori-Atta urged the Board to help resolve disputes between taxpayers and the government in a timely and efficient manner, provide guidance and precedent for similar cases in the future and promote compliance with tax laws by providing clarity on the interpretation of tax legislations.
He expressed hope that the work of the board would help to increase the country’s tax to GDP ratio, which currently stood at 13 per cent, making it one of the lowest in the West African sub-region.
The minister pledged the Ministry’s support to enable the board deliver on its mandate by recognizing, respecting and protecting the rights and legitimate expectations of taxpayers on one hand and upholding the revenue mobilisation efforts of the government.
Justice Lawrence Mensah, on behalf of the board, expressed gratitude to the government for the opportunity to serve as members of the Board.
He explained that the recent efforts to ensure strong judicial oversight for the taxation landscape of the country could only help to strengthen revenue mobilisation drive.
The board, Justice Mensah assured, would work to provide an efficient and effective forum to speedily resolve disputes that could have created distractions for market players and distorted government’s income generation projections
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS