By Cecil MENSAH
Tax treaty experts of at the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and in West Africa have had their skills in Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) sharpened by the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law.
This is aimed at fighting organized crime in the sub-region as part of the Tax and Good Governance Project on the continent.
IFFs in the sub-region are best termed as bribery, tax evasion, money laundering, corruption, tax avoidance among others.
It is estimated that Africa alone loses close to about $50 billion to IFFs annually.
A report from the Transparency International (TI) says the world loses close to $2 trillion to money laundering activities and half of this amount comes from developing countries.
Therefore, a workshop for building capacity of tax treaty experts was hosted last week by GRA with the aim of intensifying efforts to combat IFFs in the sub-region. It was on the theme: “Countering Treaty and Transfer Pricing Abuse: The Tax and Financial Dimension” and was organized in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as well as the World Bank.
Speaking at the workshop in Accra, Commissioner-General of GRA, Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, said the authority appreciates the international collaboration to exchange ideas and build capacity of staff to enable them detect and deal with abuse of treaties and find antidotes to the issue of transfer pricing abuse which contributes significantly to IFFs from the continent.
He said the theme of the workshop suggest that tax administrations, judiciary, parliament, public investigation agencies, and anti-corruption bodies have a major role to play, if IFFs, which is inimical to the development aspirations of the African continent, is to be addressed.
He stated that negative effects of IFFs on the development of the continent cannot be downplayed; therefore, all responsible public agencies must come together to share experiences to combat the complex but debilitating issue on the continent.
He was hopeful the workshop will afford participants the opportunity to discuss the Thabo Mbeki-led high level panel report on IFFs and provide a platform for the exchange of experience and as well as the sharing of ideas on how bilateral, multilateral and regional tax treaty instruments can be used to counter abusive tax practices on the continent.
“GRA is therefore grateful to the Tax and Good Governance Project, UNODC, the Financial Intelligence Unit, World Bank group, the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law for the opportunity to develop the skills of members of the tax governing agency.”
Mr. Rick McDonell, Co-Director of the Tax and Good Governance Project, said the international initiative is to enhance tax compliance and reduce the extent and impact of IFFs in 52 African countries.
He said the African countries have committed to implement the Financial Action Task Force Standards on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing to save revenue for development.
“In spite of all these there still remains a gap because there has been the failure of identifying the beneficial owners behind holding companies, trusts and other opaque vehicles usually operating offshore on the continent,” he added.
Deputy Minister for Finance In-Charge of Revenue, Kweku Kwarteng, said Africa needs to strengthen the fight against the phenomenon perpetuated by people who have resource and the knowledge to rob in the wrong way.
He reminded the participants to improve upon their ability to respond to these challenges on the continent.