Lawyers play fundamental roles in the tax system – Godfred Dame
Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, says the professional and ethical training of lawyers placed them in a position to play fundamental roles in the proper function of the Ghanaian tax system.
He said lawyers performed functions in the nature of structuring, negotiation, documentation of business entities, advise clients on the tax implications of companies to be incorporated, joint venture estates, international transactions as well as possible exemptions from tax.
The Attorney-General said “A lawyer therefore ought to have sufficient knowledge of tax laws and statutory regulations as well as keep abreast with all the amendments of the various tax laws to advise clients.”
Mr Dame said this when he addressed members of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) at the opening ceremony of a week-long Annual General Conference of the Association in Bolgatanga, capital of the Upper East Region.
The Conference was on the theme; “Ensuring an increase in revenue mobilisation through taxation for the purpose of accelerated national development: The role of the lawyer.”
He said a major flaws in Ghana’s tax system was the practice of tax evasion, “Sad to say, many lawyers are caught in the phenomenon of tax evasion as they unjustifiably avoid been caught in the tax net, either by understating their profit or concealing their true income.”
The Attorney-General noted that the luxurious lifestyles of some lawyers did not commensurate with the amount of taxes they paid, “I entreat lawyers to honour to the fullest of their tax obligations, as not to do, is not only criminal, but also bothers on the gross violation of professional rules.”
Mr Dame reminded members of the GBA that the professional conduct and etiquette rules required lawyers to demonstrate the highest levels of ethical behaviour and integrity at all times, “In practice, this implies that lawyers are required to be ethical watchdogs in the cooperate world.
“We have to pay our taxes in addition to walking away from clients who insists on engaging the criminal act of tax evasion, contrary to good counsel,” he said, and further suggested that the publication of lawyers in good standing every year, by the GBA should require evidence of fulfilment of tax obligations.
He admitted that the failure of some lawyers in Ghana to discharge their full tax obligations was not entirely their fault, saying that the absence of effective systems by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to ensure that all taxpayers were brought into the tax net was majorly responsible.
“The GRA ought to devise the appropriate mechanisms of ensuring that the tax net is broadened to its elastic limit in order to bring within it all potential taxpayers including all practising lawyers,” Mr Dame advised.
He noted that taxation could not be the sole means of revenue generation for the State, emphasising that industrialization constituted an important source of revenue, “And I dare say the most important for President Akufo-Addo’s government.”
Mr Dame said Ghana could not achieve sound development without a well thought out industrialization agendum, saying that President Akufo-Addo conceived of the ‘One District, One Factory’ programme as key to the realization of his vision for the economic transformation of Ghana.
This, he said was encapsulated in the ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ policy aimed at achieving a prosperous and self-confident Ghana in charge of her economic destiny, and prosperous enough to engage competitively with the rest of the world through trade and investment devoid of aid for survival.