Debate in Parliament yesterday on the second reading of the Communication Service Tax Amendment Bill, 2013 to widen the tax net and impose more taxes on consumers, was characterised by strong arguments with some Minority members drawing President John Mahama into the debate for his position on the Communications Service Tax Bill introduced by the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
The new bill seeks to impose a six-percent tax on the inter-connect calls alone which the Minority said was already being taxed and would therefore mean ‘double’ taxation and higher cost to users.
Quoting copiously from the official hansard of Parliament in March, 2008, the NPP MP for Manhyia South, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, in a contribution to the debate, said President John Mahama who was then the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Bole Bamboi in the Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic had vehemently opposed the introduction of the communication service tax because he thought it was going to be a burden on poor consumers.
“Mr Speaker, quoting from the official hansard of Parliament, the MP for Bole Bamboi in 2008 when this bill was being debated in Parliament told the whole country that he was opposed to this tax because, according to him, the then government said it was going to put the tax into the running of the National Youth Employment Programme.”
He said President Mahama, as an MP, was emphatic to state that the communication industry was over-burdened with taxes and therefore introducing the communication service tax bill would be additional burden on consumers.
“Mr Speaker, the then MP for Bole-Bamboi said the NPP government was not being honest to introduce the bill to fund the NYEP and that if indeed the government was serious and honest it could have introduced a separate bill to fund the NYEP,” he said, stressing that the former MP who is now the head of the present NDC government has come back to Parliament asking parliamentarians to endorse more taxes in the communication industry.
He said it was highly insensitive for the government headed by President Mahama to burden Ghanaians with more taxes under the certificate of urgency, which meant the bill would have to be passed without delay.
The NPP MP for Old Tafo, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, who is a ranking member of the Finance Committee, said the bill should come with the supplementary budget because there was nothing urgent about it.
“Is it because the country is broke and the government is in a hurry to fill the revenue shortfall that the certificate of urgency was attached to the bill?” he queried.
The NPP MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu Ankomah and NDC MP for Nadowli/Kaleo, Alban Bagbin who was then the Minority leader, warned Parliament to exercise caution in treating the bill as urgent because there were very ‘knotty’ areas in the bill which the Finance Committee could scrutinise so that the bill did not necessarily affect potency of the communication industry.
The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, for his part, wondered whether the introduction of the bill under the certificate of urgency was an admission by the government that the country was indeed broke.
He said the same people including the Majority Leader, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, who was then the MP for Lawra/Nandom, NDC MP for Nadowli/Kaleo, Alban Bagbin and NDC MP for Tamale Central, Inusah Fuseini, now a cabinet minister who were opposed to the introduction of the bill are now championing certain amendments to the bill that would impose further taxes on consumers.
“Hon Alban Bagbin, then the Minority leader in Parliament described this bill as ‘a talk bill’ and now should we call this new bill as ‘country is broke bill’,” he indicated.
In the Finance Committee’s report itself, clause one of the amendments sought to impose a tax to be known as Communication Service Tax and that the tax is to be levied on electronic communication service providers.
Clause two provided for the tax to be paid together with the electronic communication service charge payable to the service provider by the user of the service.
According to the committee’s report, where the service is received from outside Ghana the tax is to be paid by the user who received the service.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr
Source: Thomas Fosu Jnr/D-Guide
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|