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Government to meet industry players to discuss E-Levy in details before implementing

The finance minister’s reading of the 2022 budget on Wednesday brought a lot of talks among the Ghanaian populace. A key body also taken aback by the introduction of electronic transaction levy (E-levy) is the electronic and digital finance industry.

Sources indicate that prior to the Budget reading, none of the players from the industry knew about it because government had not given them any prior notice, even though they are to be the main implementers of this new levy.

According to them, only the rumour of government placing taxes on interest mobile money customers got to them. Nothing was said about electronic transaction taxes.

Information being relayed to the public indicates that since the finance minister’s reading and announcement, government for the first time will now be meeting the industry players on Friday, 19th November 2021 to discuss into details what the tax will entail, how it should be calculated and its implementation.

The meeting will see attendance Fintechs, and representatives from the National Communications Authority, Ghana Revenue Authority, Bank of Ghana, Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation, and the Ministry of Finance in the main.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta announced a 1.75 percent E-Levy on all electronic transactions, including mobile money, beginning January 2022, saying that Covid-19 and government’s digitalization program have boosted digital finance transactions exponentially, and it has now become necessary to tax those transactions.

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The Minister said the plan is to rope in the informal sector into the tax net because a lot of financial transactions in that sector now take place on digital platforms via mobile money and other electronic wallets.

But there is an exemption on any amount from GHS100 and below transacted per day. This is a pro-poor policy designed to cushion the less privileged who often transact smaller amounts from the E-Levy.

The expected proceeds from the yet to be implemented E-Levy will take care of the abolished road toll for roads maintenance, plus part of it will be used to support entrepreneurship, youth employment, cyber security and digital infrastructure among other things.

A similar promise was given regarding the use of Communications Service Tax (CST) when it was increased to nine percent pre-Covid. This was before it was reduced to five percent during the Covid outbreak.

The new e-levy goes contrary to the initial sayings of the Vice President, Dr Bawumia. He is recalled to have said somewhere in August lasy year that he did not believe mobile money should be taxed because people who use mobile money are poor.

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According to him, the idea is to rope more Ghanaians, particularly the unbanked into the financial sector and so if government begins to burden those people with taxes, it will defeat government’s own financial inclusion agenda.

Prior to the Vice President saying that, the communication and digitalization minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful had been campaigning for the mobile money service charges to be taxed.

The Minister, at the time stated that the telcos earned some GHS71 million every month in mobile money service charges and she believed that money should be taxed separately.

She did explain that the intent was not to tax mobile money service, which was going to burden the users, but just the service charges that went to the telcos.

Meanwhile, leading civil society organization, CDD-Ghana did criticize the Minister’s suggestion at the time, saying that if the service charges are taxes, the cost will eventually be passed on to consumers.

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They explained that telcos already paid corporate taxes on the revenue they make from mobile money service charges, so an additional tax will be double taxation and the consumer will eventually suffer for it.

Now the mobile money service tax is here and the only comment coming from industry players is “the days ahead will be very interesting”.

Ghanaians are now looking intently to see how the new taxing system will affect award winning free money transfer from Vodafone Cash to all wallets on other networks.

Already, Vodafone Cash has sacrifices millions on behalf of their customers for more than year. But would the telco continue to absorb the service charges even after the 1.75 per cent tax is implemented?

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