Let’s support E-Levy

Parliament, at long last, approved the controversial Electronic Transfer Levy (E-Levy) Bill 2021 under a certificate of urgency on Tuesday.
The Minority caucus walked out of the House explaining that they did not want to have anything to do with its approval, leaving the Majority to pass the levy expected to rake in GH¢6.9 billion to augment government revenue. 

On November 17, 2021, the Minister for Finance announced during the presentation of the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government to  Parliament the introduction of the E-Levy to be charged at 1.75 per cent on electronic transactions above GH¢100 (US$16) per day.

It was to come into effect from February 1, this year, but due to sustained opposition from the Minority in the country’s now hung parliament to its approval, it delayed that.

In fact, an earlier attempt to approve it in the absence of the Speaker of the House, Mr Alban Bagbin, in January resulted in a brawl between the Minority and Majority, each of whom has 137 members in the Parliament which has an additional Independent member, who shows allegiance to the Majority due to his background as once a member of the ruling party, the New Patriotic Party.

Apart from the opposition from the people’s representatives, being the Minority caucus, there was also massive opposition from pressure group OccupyGhana, certain organisations and the general public that forced a review of the charge, which is now 1.5 per cent.

The E-Levy is truly controversial because of the criticisms and opposition it has suffered but it seems to be one tax designed to capture more Ghanaians into the tax net.

In January, while trying to convince Parliament to approve the levy, the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, said with only two million of the estimated 20 million people paying tax in the country paying, it  would contribute a token to the national treasury.

Though the E-Levy has been passed, there are some questions to be answered.

Some members of the public want to know, for example, if they would pay the E-Levy for using the ATM to withdraw money in addition to the existent ATM charges paid to the bank.

There is also the statement making the rounds that no one gets levied for moving his or her own cash from one wallet to another or from one bank account to another provided it is registered in the person’s own name and with Ghana card.

Now that it is going to take effect at a time some Ghanaians are yet to have the Ghana card, what happens if they want to do such transactions?

One good thing is that there are exemptions for transfers between principal agents, master agents and special merchant accounts, which means MoMo agents, money issuers, banks and key actors in the value chain would not be affected.

This means those making a living out of the electronic transfers can remain in business and save the country a worsened unemployment situation.

As usual, it is not easy for any bill in parliament to enjoy 100 per cent support so the Minority cannot be blamed for the walkout for it is their right.

However, the question is should the walkout continue in a hung parliament also?

It seems walkouts do not have any effect in the nation’s Parliament because they rather give the Majority the opportunity to have their way.

The Minority, which have sustained their opposition to the E-Levy, have had their say that the levy is regressive and a disincentive to businesses and the digital economy government is championing. 

They have explained that though they are not against taxation, they are against the structure and design of the E-Levy, which makes it distortionary.

Now they are in court questioning the constitutionality of the approval of the levy, which is also their right.

The Ghanaian Times wishes to appeal to Parliament that now that the E-Levy bill has been passed into law, the Minority especially should prepare to monitor collections, accruals and spending.

As for its appropriateness or otherwise, in spite of what the Supreme Court would say, either the current generation or posterity would also tell which side of the House served the interest of the country.

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