The Industrial and Commercial Work­ers Union (ICU) and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) have intensified calls on the government to reduce the tax burden on their mem­bers.

According to them, the multiplicity of taxes contin­ues to negatively affect the quality of lives of workers and impact business opera­tions.

General Secretary of the ICU, Solomon Kotei told Business Finder in an inter­view “the myriad of taxes that the Ghanaian worker is paying without the commen­surate benefit is suffocating us; in fact, there is too much pressure on workers.”

According to him, “even overtime is taxed; everything you buy on the market has got the VAT on it and we arc paying the National Insur­ance Levy on almost every item on the market; when your money goes to the bank there are SMS charges which are deducted, all of which make life very unbearable for the Ghanaian worker.” 

Mr. Kotei warned that the Union would continue to mount pressure on govern­ment and Parliament to with­draw some of the taxes while reducing others drastically.

lie however described as unfortunate government’s decision not to yield to the demands of labour in its bid ostensibly to avoid distorting the national budget.

“For a government that tells labour, it is a dead goat so we can make all the noise and it still has its way it’s making the lives of workers in this country very tough,”

President of the AGI, James Asare Adjei has also indicated the Association’s dissatisfaction with the intro­duction of taxes without re­course to its members on the adverse impact on their busi­nesses.

“This year, businesses were subjected to new taxes without any consultations; AGI and its members are not happy with the development and have therefore engaged the Ministry of Finance on this subject matter exten­sively,” he stressed.

The AGI has among other things expressed its displeas­ure over some tax obligations expected of its members.

Notable among them is the 17.5 per cent VAT, 3 per cent VAT Flat rate as well as some port charges.

Businesses have also complained about the fact that not only have the devel­opment increased their cost of operations, the high tax regime has also made them less competitive compared to their peers across the region and around the globe.

The Association’s Busi­ness Barometer (BB) surveys for all the three-quarters of this year had amongst the topmost challenges the multiplicity of taxes.

“Businesses continue to be under pressure from High cost of utility, Access to credit, and multiplicity of taxes,” the third quarter BB said.

In a related development, the AGI has welcomed the withdrawal of port handling charges which were met with agitations from business con­cerns in the country.

Private sector players considered the charges as legal and waged a campaign for its removal.

Shipping lines at the country’s ports had twice defied the transport Ministry order for the charges to be withdrawn compelling President Mahama to add his voice to the issue.

Mr. Asare-Adjei called on the government to as a matter of urgency reconsider its, Trade Liberalization policies.

According to him, the nature of the policy is gradually turning Ghana into a heavily import dependent economy, a situation he says is very worrying to local industries.

“It is obvious that local industries are experiencing numerous challenges, to mention a few, access and cost of credit, high and un­bearable electricity tariffs to industry, stiff competition to imported product,” he said. 

“We have increasingly be­come an import dependent economy I believe we must reconsider our trade liberal­ization policies which seem to give unlimited access to all kinds of imports into our markets. The challenges of globalization emanating from the keen competition from imported goods keep on eroding the competitive­ness of local industries,” he added.

It would be recalled that the Finance Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper warned against popular calls for the scrap­ping of some new taxes in­troduced by the government, saying the country will lose about GI1^ 1 billion if those taxes were scrapped.

Dispelling accusations that he is tax-happy, the Min­ister explained that the taxes being implemented by gov­ernment were necessary to restructure the tax base to correspond with global busi­ness changes.

Nonetheless, he stated that government will remove some of the taxes gradually from 2017.