More than 190 tax experts have converged on Accra for a three-day conference aimed at maximising tax revenue for African countries from the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Dubbed, African Tax Administration Annual Congress, it is being held on the theme “The Tax and Revenue Implications of the AfCFTA.”
Organised by the African Tax Research Network (ATRN) in collaboration with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the event seeks to engage key authorities to map the road towards an operational customs union.
Opening the event, yesterday, Deputy Minister of Finance, AbenaOsei-Asare, said AfCFTA was an important trade mechanism which could boost African trade, particularly intra-regional trade in manufacturing.
Citing a World Bank’s report, she said that by 2035, the volume of total exports would increase by almost 29 percent; intra-continental exports by more than 81 per cent, while exports to non-African countries would rise by 19 percent.
This, she said, would also result in increased customs revenue to African countries in the short-term and impact positively on their Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
To boost customs revenue mobilisation, she advised African countries to target domestic taxes through expanding the tax base by focusing on new streams of domestic tax-related revenues including Digital Service Tax (DTS), Environmental tax, VAT on electronic commerce and taxation of High Net worth Individuals.
Madam Osei-Asare said technology and big data analytics was critical in providing unified and harmonised data for analysis by the revenue authority to rope the informal sector onto the tax net.
To mitigate the possibility of slow pace in revenue growth resulting from the implementation of the AfCFTA in the initial stages, she urged member states to adopt measures to boost domestic tax revenue mobilisation.
Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Rev.AmishaddaiOwusu-Amoah, said the implementation of the AfCFTA required technical skills, enhanced processes and the use of technology by cooperating with competent authorities such as the Ministry of Trade, Customs authorities, tax authorities, and other law enforcement agencies involved in detecting various financial and customs related crimes.
He stated that regional cooperation between tax authorities was necessary now to enable the collection of information, including beneficial ownership information and financial information, as well as the use of tax identifiers that link individuals to the companies in which they were shareholders.
“As border control, customs authorities are key in detecting and preventing smuggling, counterfeit goods and overall illicit trade, but in a future single market, one national authority cannot effectively execute this duty on its own,” he added.
To share information effectively, MrOwusu-Amoah noted that, legal frameworks would need to be re-shaped to enable the sharing of tax information between competent authorities to help detect fraud, tax evasion or avoidance schemes that make use of multiple jurisdictions.
He said it would also help to identify and track the movement of goods in order to predict the trade facilitation needs of specific industries, potentially detect any illicit trade or activity, and monitor the origin/destination of items to apply VAT to the end consumer.
Executive Secretary of ATAF, Logan Wort, said the group held a huge interest in the AfCFTA adding that, as the key African tax policy and administration body, it would provide the necessary technical assistance and capacity building in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
He said AFAT would work with the AfCFTA to address loopholes for illicit financial flows (IFFs) brought about by the creation of single and seamless market where goods, services, labour and capital flow freely.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS