The decision by the government to raise import duties to rake in more revenue for development may sound good on paper, but it has resulted in huge revenue loss to the state, as a result of fraudulent activities by some importers and individuals in the country.
Information trickling in indicates that to avoid paying the astronomical import duties, some of the importers bring in cars through the free port in Lome. These cars are then sent to the garages they have acquired in Lome to sell them.
The Chronicle gathered that because these cars are relatively cheaper, due to low duties that they pay in Togo, these importers come to Ghana and convince potential car buyers that they have cars for sale in Togo.
If the buyer agrees, he is then transported to the Togolese capital to examine the car and subsequent payment is made. It was unearthed that because it is a cartel that is operating the trans-border business, they assist the buyer of the car to drive it through unapproved routes to Ghana, without paying any taxes to the government.
Chronicle investigations also established that another strategy these importers use is to convince the buyer to pay for the car in Lome, Togo. They will then come to Ghana to look for a similar car that had been involved in an accident and is no more roadworthy.
They remove the number plates of the accident car and send it to Togo, which they use on the newly purchased car and drive it back to Ghana, as if the car had already been registered in Ghana.
The third trick is for these nation wreckers to fix fake diplomatic number plates on the car and drive it through our borders into the country without again paying any taxes to the state.
The fourth strategy is to register the car in Togo and then obtain temporary import permit at the border to bring in the car to Ghana. The position of the law is that after the expiration of the permit period, if the car is not driven back to Togo or the country of origin, right import duties would be accessed by customs for the owner to pay.
So to avoid the payment of the import duty, the owner of the car would just drive back to Togo and after a few days, he or she would drive to the border and again obtain another import permit to enable him drive back to Ghana.
A Ghanaian based in Nigeria, who recently relocated to Ghana, told this reporter that because he knew he would not go back, he told the custom officers at the Aflao border the truth.
As a result, the import duty on his Nigerian registered car was accessed and he was asked to pay GH¢5, 200 to the state, which he did at the Ho office of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
He told The Chronicle that if he had wanted to be unpatriotic, he could have followed the same trick and dodged the tax payment.
The Chronicle gathered that the lucrative business, which is denying the government of Ghana huge sums of revenue has been going on for a long time, but the revenue and security agencies have failed to notice it.
A source which spoke to this reporter noted that for the government to break up this huge cartel, taxes on imported cars must be reviewed to discourage the cross border crime being perpetrated against the state.
A research conducted by The Chronicle revealed that a Toyota Corona (big size), which used to sell at GH¢14,000 two years ago, moved to GH¢17,000 last year is now selling at GH¢19,000.
Similarly, a Hyundai Elentra which was being sold at GH¢9, 000 in 2011, moved up to GH¢10, 000 last year, is now going at GH¢12, 000.
In the case of KIA saloon cars, the price moved from GH¢7, 000 to GH¢8,500 last year and is now going for GH¢10, 000. All other cars which were being sold for GH¢22, 000 last year have now moved to GH¢25, 000. Ford Escape is also being currently sold for GH¢28,000.
Some of the garage owners who spoke to The Chronicle indicated that the prices have jumped high, due to a combination of factors. They named these factors as high import duties that have been introduced and the unstable nature of the cedi against the dollar.
From all indications the revenue target set for the custom division of the Ghana Revenue authority might not be met this year. Information obtained by The Chronicle indicates that Tema division of CEPS alone was given a revenue target of GH¢ 4,480,590,000.00 for this year, as against GH¢3,249,890,000.00 given them last year,but as at September last month, they have collected only GH¢2,842,448,933.61.
The Chief Collector of the Tema section of CEPS, Mr. Nicholas TawiahOkporah recently told news men that it would be very difficult for his outfit to meet the target set for them this year. He attributed the difficulty in collecting the revenue to challenges facing the economy, including the long hearing of the election petition case.