The Minister-designate for Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said that, following the decline of conventional revenue sources in the telecommunications sector, transaction fees created by mobile cash operators should be taxed.
According to her, a Common Network study tracking mobile money transactions suggested that the monthly use of 344.6 million transactions was GH 81.3 billion in January 2021 alone.
The Minister-designate, appearing yesterday before the Appointments Committee of Parliament, revealed that the 44.6 million mobile money transactions produced GH-124.5 million non-taxed transaction fees for mobile money operators.
“In my view, it should be taxed on the transaction fees generated by operators from this enormous traffic and volumes of mobile money platforms,” Ursula suggested, adding that “that is my personal opinion and I have said so on several platforms.”
She clarified that this could not be misunderstood to mean that the profits received by telecommunications providers from transaction fees on persons who submit and receive money is taxed on users of mobile money, instead.
The amount they (consumers) send to all network providers for this service is the money they receive, and it must be of benefit to the state, and it must be charged. “I was further informed that some of them are even facing the sale of scratch cards and insisting on mobile cash top-ups,” she added.
What it indicates for her is that the tax that the state may have earned from the selling and receipt of scratch cards is missed and that the new 1% fee on mobile money transfers is “out of state reach” profits for telecoms.
“So while, because of technology, we are losing money on the traditional revenue stream, we are also disabling the state from earning revenue from the new streams used by these network operators,” Ursula said.
She continued that “the state has disabled itself because mobile cash and all the revenues it generates are not taxed as financial transactions at present.” So I agree that we ought to look at it again.
This is not likely to be a levy on mobile money users because phone providers are only charging subscribers 1% for the usage of this service. I think the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Minister of Finance should be involved in the revenue they earn from transaction fees.
As I indicated earlier, in January alone, GH 124.5 million in mobile money transaction fees was a big sum of mobile money (going as untaxed revenue for the operators). Even if the state gets 10 percent a month, GH is 12.4 million per month; that is significant.
She said, “In view of the fact that the state is losing revenue from traditional revenue streams due to technology development, I think we need to have this conversation.”
She noticed that there was a decline in the amount of persons who rendered regular voice calls and that the income that the state would collect from the Contact Service Tax was also diminishing.
It is herbal, and it will not go up any time fast. We are utilizing more info, which is fantastic, to do more. This is a debate we are having worldwide. The conventional streams that are being lost are stripped away by other over-the-top facilities.
New revenue sources are being developed and several studies from the GSMA, ITU and the CTO are being carried out globally, all looking at this face,” she said.”
“In the field of cybersecurity, the Minister-designate for Communications and Digitisation indicated that a lot had been done on cybersecurity in the last few years, but said: “A lot more needs to be done.
It has provided the authority to designate essential infrastructure that will also need to be recorded and maintained in line with defined criteria to be decided by the authority.’ It has also provided the authority to set up a computer emergency management center that will manage emergency response teams unique to the field.
A computer emergency team for the telecommunications sector has already been formed by the National Communication Authority (NCA),” she noted, adding that “the Bank of Ghana, in coordination with the Cyber Security Centre, has set up another one for the financial sector. Also, the defense industry has one, or they require one if they don’t.
For the infrastructure, for the transport industry, we require one. I have also introduced one to supervise an e-government network for NITA,” she said.