Business operators declare 3-day strike from Monday ‘cos of “Killer taxes”

Nineteen business associations have resolved to close down all their shops from Monday, February 29 to Wednesday, March 2, 2016 in protest against what they describe as “killer taxes” imposed by the government.

The protest is also meant to put pressure on the government to review certain trade policies inimical to business.

Following that, all importers have been instructed to halt any process of clearing their goods at the ports during the three-day strike.

This was made known at a press conference organised by the leadership of the Joint Business Consultative Forum, the mother body of all the trading fraternity, in Accra Wednesday.

The forum is made up of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Ghana Automobile Dealers Association, the Food and Beverages Association of Ghana and the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA).

The rest are the Importers and Exporters Association, the Ghana Pharmaceutical Chamber, the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), the Customs Brokers Association of Ghana and the Freight Forwarders Association of Ghana.

The President of GUTA, Mr George Ofori, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the government’s failure to remove certain taxes and review some trade policies affecting the operations of businesses had necessitated their action.

“We have made many efforts in the past three weeks to get the government to remove certain taxes and change some of its trade policies but nothing has been done to address our concerns,” he said.

Unfavourable trade policies

Throwing light on some of the taxes imposed on businesses, Mr Ofori said 50 per cent of current taxes were “needless” because they did not benefit the traders.

For instance, he said, the two per cent special tax which was imposed by the government with the promise of removing it after a year still existed after five years.

“The government made us aware that the special tax would be removed after a year, but we are now in the fifth year and we continue to pay the same special tax,” he said.

Mr Ofori said the one per cent withholding tax was hostile to businesses and it must be abolished.

Touching on the ECOWAS common external tariffs, he said since they were introduced, trading activities in Ghana had become expensive, making it difficult for traders to get their investments back.

He said while in Nigeria businesses were made to pay five per cent VAT on bank charges, Ghanaian businesses were required to pay 17.50 per cent.

“This is not encouraging for local companies because we cannot effectively compete with our Nigerian counterparts,” Mr Ofori said.

Commenting on some of the operational charges by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, he said the payment of certain charges in dollars continued to hinder the operations of businesses, as they had to spend more to clear goods at the ports.

Foreigners benefit

Mr Ofori said the business climate in Ghana had, over the past years, favoured foreign investors and companies more than local businesses.

He explained that whereas the Ghanaian business community was given tough trade policies to follow, foreign investors, especially Chinese companies, were given the best policies, including tax exemptions and other suitable benefits.

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