West Africa asked to demonstrate prudent tax revenue management

Seth Terkper - Minister of Finance
Seth Terkper – Minister of Finance

Finance Minister, Mr Seth Terkper has urged governments in the West African sub-region, to demonstrate prudent management of tax revenue to induce regular and repeated tax compliance.

In a speech read on his behalf at a training workshop for tax professionals from the sub-region in Accra, Mr Terpker said the perception by taxpayers that tax revenue is being put to good use is an assurance to securing the tax base.

The training on International Initiatives at Securing the Tax Base: Tax Harmonisation was organised by the West Africa Tax Forum (WATAF) and seeks to bring the various countries in the sub-region, to share their experiences and explore ways to improve domestic revenue mobilisation.

The three-day forum, which is the first, is being co-sponsored by German Development Agency, the European Union, ECOWAS and the Ford Foundation.

Mr Terpker said revenue administration must also embark on sustained tax education campaigns and programmes for taxpayers to enable them understand the tax laws, procedures and processes.

“A transparent and open tax system backed by tax laws clearly defining taxpayers’ rights and obligations will help secure the tax base and maximise tax revenue,” he said.

Mr Terkper said the adoption of a policy of tax harmonisation is important if the regional integration process is to be meaningful and beneficial to citizens in the region.

However, he said, as taxes might be barriers to the free movement of goods, services or production factors, their adjustment to integration should be examined.

“Tax harmonisation is a tool which can help remove some of these barriers,” he said, adding that the adoption of the Common External Tariff by ECOWAS is expected to be an effective instrument for harmonising the import policies of member states.

He said for tax harmonisation to succeed among member countries of WATAF, there is the need to adopt a common code of conduct to inform and guide tax policy formulation across the region and impose sanctions when the code is breached.

“I am inclined to think that WATAF does not have to re-invent the wheel. It is appropriate to learn from the rich history and experiences of the European Union and other integration processes in South America and other parts of the world,” Me Terkper said.

He urged the participants to take the lessons seriously and readily shared the knowledge acquired with their colleagues.

Mr George Blankson, the Commissioner General of Ghana Revenue Authority, said the training is in line with the objectives of WATAF, which is to encourage strong collaboration and sharing of information amongst all ECOWAS member states towards improving the quality of tax administration and ensuring that all West African member states speak with one cohesive voice on tax policy and administration matters at international forums.

He said through continuous and sustained training of tax administrators’ countries could secure their tax base to increase tax revenue.

Mr Blankson said there is the need for such training of revenue professionals and tax administrators as the business environment and taxpayers are getting increasingly complex and sophisticated as a result of improved technology, processes and practices.

The three-day training would focus on providing participants with an improved understanding of current initiatives targeted at securing the tax base globally and how tax harmonisation is relevant to West African Revenue Authorities.

The training would also enable participants to situate the concept of tax harmonisation within the precinct of municipal law, socio-economic policy as well as trends adopted for securing the tax base.

Source: GNA

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