Dear Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), I write to inform you that my landlord, a man who lives on rent, does not pay tax on the many apartments he lets at ridiculously inflated rates.

He has an office and a gargantuan notebook ? the type I used to divide up and write all my notes in when I was in secondary school ? and he goes around virtually every morning knocking on doors and demanding his money. Namarad?n!

I will tell on him; yes I will. I recently made a two-year advance payment of as much as GH?250 per month to him just for a sizeable sitting room, bedroom, kitchen and toilet and bath, the type Ghanaians refer to as Chamber and Hall, Self-contained. Wallah?!

This means to cover the 24 months, I paid him a whopping (per the size of my emaciated pocket of course) GH?6000, which has since thrown my finances out of gear, and has brought me close to assuming Ghana?s present persona of being broke or, as the IEA would have it, cash-trapped.

So chase him; I say seek him out for your 8%, GRA. Do not let him use it all on chinchinga ? and the man likes the very well spiced one too. Lagalagatu?!

I really wish I could take the money on your behalf, Wallah?!

In fact, if I had known before going to rent his room that you are entitled to 8% of the gross rent charge, I would have withheld it and paid it to you straight. But now that he has the money, I am afraid to approach him.

His towering physique does not help either. Trust you me, I exaggerate not if I describe him in the manner Chinua Achebe describes his tragic hero Okonkwo: ?He [is] tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose [give] him a very severe look.?

That is why I cannot approach him and demand the money on your behalf. I mean you, the GRA. In any case, what is my own in the matter? I am sure if he does not pounce on me like Okonkwo, he is likely to ask, in his terribly affected accent: ?You shay waat? GRA wan chaargi me for my rent? Nansins. GRA buildi house for me? GRA buy sament for me?…???????8߮(mumbling incantations).?Dangad?n!

So GRA, let the recently named 43-member rent tax team go after my landlord. If they do not, and they go on and take fat salaries or allowances in the name of same, I will personally…I wish I could do something. Faniaf?n!

But GRA, how about asking that any person or company wanting to rent or lease property, whether residential or commercial, picks a form from any of your offices and provide details, including how much they are paying for the property, to help you get your share? Will the property owners connive with their clients to quote wrong figures? I do not know.

But seriously, to think that a law exists in this country that entitles the leaky coffers of state to a percentage of income that accrues to someone as a result of letting or leasing a property, and yet so many property owners are having a field?s day is a vexed matter indeed.

I am sure even that other man, the one behind where I stay, who has put up those upper-class  two- and three-bedroom apartments, and is living the free-market life to the fullest, charging like there is no tomorrow, does not pay tax as well. Namarad?n!

I don?t even know why I asked, since there was no way I could afford it, but I was shocked to learn that this man was taking as much as GH?400 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, and an even colossal amount of GH?600 per month for a three-bedroom apartment. And as you may be aware, it is a two-year down payment or he isn?t letting.

I must admit, though, that these particular apartments are, as a brother of mine would have it, one in town. They are the type that when you live in you like to come out to the balcony, wearing a spick and span singlet atop a well-reared belly, and silently beg passers-by to look at the nouveau riche air about you.

Dear Mr. George Blankson, the GRA boss, I am as baffled as you that the tax on rent income for 2011 was a meagre 0.42 percent or GH?15.92 million out of GH?3.7 billion of total direct tax collected.

I am equally appalled to learn that in 2012, the amount realised for rent income was GH?17.48 million out of GH?5.4 billion total direct taxes.

And so I agree with you when you say that, ?This is obviously not a healthy development. It is for this reason that the management of GRA has found it necessary to re-double efforts to scale up the collection of the tax on rent income.?

But wait a minute; is it not the same GRA that always talks about exceeding its revenue targets? Those targets must certainly be looked at again then, should they not?

I find it unfortunate, just as you Mr. GRA boss, that, ?voluntary compliance in tax payments in Africa continues to be one of the lowest in the world.?

But correct me if I am wrong, nowhere in the world do people love to pay taxes. The human being will simply not comply if they can. Why do you think in 2009, the G20 declared that ?the era of tax evasion and avoidance is over??

Americans, for instance, are some of the most vocal people against taxation, because they will fight to the death to defend their individual freedoms. But they pay; and they pay good taxes on their incomes; forget that they hate the income tax form.

The system makes the so-called voluntary compliance happen as a matter of course; people pay taxes not merely because they love to, and even if they develop the love for it, it is because the culture has been instilled in them. Let the authorities in Ghana implant the culture in Ghanaians by designing systems that make it easy for us to pay taxes on our incomes, regardless of whether we are in formal or informal employment, business or investment.

And when the taxes come, let not any thieves amass them all for themselves. When the taxes come, let them be used and used well for the betterment of the sorry lot of the long suffering people of Ghana.

What galls the taxpayer is not so much the paying of the tax but to learn that 60% of his taxes is spent paying public sector workers, and yet his roads are in bad shape, water does not flow through his tap, he does not get regular supply of electricity, and he spends four hours each day to and from work due to the crawling pace at which traffic moves in town.

I am sure majority of Ghanaians, discerning as they are, do understand that: ?The expenses of government, having for their object the interest of all, should be borne by everyone, and the more a man enjoys the advantages of society, the more he ought to hold himself honoured in contributing to those expenses,? as Anne Robert Jacques Turgot said.

But the government must also realise, as Calvin Coolidge said, that ?collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalised robbery.?

And the government must realise, even as it contemplates more taxes in a desperate bid to save Ghana from filing for bankruptcy as one state did in the US recently, that managing the public purse with outmost integrity and efficiency are things Ghanaians demand to the last pesewa.

And the government must realise, once again, that the people are not happy about their poverty, that they do not like the plethora of financial malfeasance being reported of various government agencies; that when the people rise, ?they will do so knowing that God loves them, or He would not have created so many of them? ? as Chinua Achebe said.

Ashaiman showed glimpses recently. It is not to be taken lightly. The NDC and NPP cannot forever keep the people divided over whether they should rise about bread and butter issues. Their natural survival instinct will one day push them into a spontaneous avowal of how tired they are of the sickening order of things, and they will not care which political party is standing in their way.

?People win,? a distinct placard in the mammoth crowd during Egypt?s version of the Arab spring read. Wallah?!
By the way, if you are a landlord and you do not pay rent tax, reach me via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for me to report you to the GRA.

By Basiru ADAM


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