“Parliament in 2008 passed the Communications Service Tax Act to impose a six per cent (6%) charge
. . .”
Then the last three lines, of that bullet point --
“The proposed amendment there- fore seeks to bring clarity to the various provisions so as to improve the administration of the tax.”
If it is to bring clarity, what is the urgency? It is because this Act has been in existence since 2008.
How many years ago? We are talking about five good years. Mr Speaker, issues have been raised by the Hon Member for Suhum, and that is the more reason this Bill ought not to have been recommended to this House as a Bill of an urgent nature. Why is it of an urgent nature? Nothing is stated. I am submitting, Mr Speaker, that we should take our time and go through this Bill because the Report from the Committee does not help the House to arrive at such a decision.
Mr Speaker, contrary to the purpose as stated in the Memorandum, the amendment is introducing a new tax; so, the Memorandum is misleading this House. Mr Speaker, if you look at the Report, “Provisions of the Bill” -- With your permission, I beg to quote from page 2, the third paragraph of the Report:
“Clause 2 amends section 2 of Act 754 to provide for the tax to be paid together with the electronic communication service charge payable to the service provider by the user of the service. Where the service is received from a source outside Ghana, the tax is to be paid by the user who received the service. The section also clarifies the period within which the tax becomes due.”
And if you go to page 3 of the Report -- “Observations”, “Reason/justification for the amendments”, it states:
“The Committee was informed that provisions in the Communications Service Tax Act, 2008 (Act 775) was not specific on the point at which the tax should be collected. This situation, the Committee learnt, posed many implementation chal- lenges to the Ghana Revenue
Authority and the communications service provider. The proposed amendments therefore, seek to bring clarity to aid smooth implemen- tation.”
The Committee goes further to say:
“The Committee advises the Ministry of Finance and the GRA to strengthen their monitoring activities to ensure that the revenue realised is fully accounted for and paid to the State.”
Mr Speaker, if it is for clarity, why should we be talking about monitoring activities to ensure that the revenue realised from the imposition of this tax -- Mr Speaker, I believe that in this case, the House should not accept the Report of the Committee, but rather reject it and allow this Bill to go through the normal processes, so that if there are any amendments, if there are any considerations, the House can consider them carefully.
It is not enough for this House just to approve the Bill. We must be able to defend it to the people of this country.
Mr Speaker, when you look at the Interpretation, it is true that the interpretation of “user” says:
“A customer includes a customer that is an operator.”
Probably, if we want it to be paid by the operator or provider of electronic communications network or service, we should state it, but that would also be inconsistent with the principal enactment. This is because it is not paid by operators; it is paid by the users, hence this rather disingenuous interpretation being proffered in the interpretation section.
Mr Speaker, I may not have any objection principally to the imposition of taxes, but where Parliament has been given the right by the Constitution to impose taxes, we should make sure that in doing that, we do it diligently. Not many of us have seen the Bill -- [Interruption.] Not many of us have seen the Bill until this morning. Not many of us even at the Committee, were able to attend because it was a Friday. I would encourage -- [Inter- ruption.]