The "Working in Ghana" Project

Tax Inspector

[Mr. Yakubu is nearly forty-five years old, married, and has four children. He holds a university degree. For the past six years he has been a senior inspector for the Ghana Internal Revenue Service in northern Ghana. Philip Awekeya and Mr. Yakubu spoke in the inspector's office.]

My first job after receiving my university degree was with the Ghana Meat Marketing Board. I worked for them about six years before taking this job. Unlike my first job, which limited me to one place, being a tax inspector requires that I move constantly into the field to get people to pay tax on the private or partnership businesses they operate.

Every Monday to Friday I start work at 8 a.m. and finish at about 5 p.m. We sometimes close later than 5 if we have a large amount of work. We travel to the district capitals to access the transactions of business men and women so as to determine how much money they should pay. We also contact owners of new stores and other business units like drinking bars, motor and car spare parts establishments, and video houses. Sometimes my colleagues and I stay in the office to study the files of the business people and then invite some of them for interviews with the aim of readjusting the amount they should pay as tax. We also receive new applicants who want their intended businesses assessed before they go into operation. We usually depend on what applicants put on the form or tell us in a personal interview, or on an on-the-spot inspection of the business unit to determine how much tax they should pay to the state.

As a senior tax inspector I am also responsible for the supervision of the junior officers' activities. I try to ensure that each of them submits proper records on their weekly assignments so the nation derives maximum revenue from the numerous businesses in the country. Otherwise, people would conduct business without paying any tax, which would be detrimental to the country.

On the whole I am very pleased with the job. It gives me the opportunity to interact with many people, especially the seemingly well-to-do in the society who mostly operate private business. Some of these men and women at times give us tips when we are on our rounds, even though they are not obliged to. What they give helps cushion us, especially during lean periods of the month.

On the other hand, it is disheartening to observe well-to-do businessmen and ladies trying to evade tax. Though we carry out tax education from time to time, the exercise seems to be falling on deaf ears. Most Ghanaian businessmen like to evade tax. Even more disturbing are the wicked deeds that some big-time businessmen like the building and road contractors do to us tax officials. We stand the risk of being run down by someone in his car if he feels hurt because he has been denied a tax clearance certificate which he could use to secure a big building or road contract. When people are refused a tax clearance certificate by our office because they have not paid their taxes, they often turn around to blame us as unsympathetic and inhuman, rather than blaming themselves for neglecting their responsibilities.

In spite of the risk involved in the discharge of our duties, for the period that I have been with the Internal Revenue Service I have performed creditably. This is shown through the good reports my supervisor writes about my work. I feel extremely glad that my work has been appreciated by those I am accountable to. I constantly endeavor to maintain a high level of output not only to satisfy my supervisor but to help raise funds so the state can carry out its many functions, such as provision of school buildings and workshops as well as public health delivery services.

I feel happy that there are wider openings for me, with my university degree, to climb to the top in the service. So far I have received two promotions in six years. These are clear indications that after I stay a little longer, I can move to the top senior positions which are reserved for hard working, dedicated, university graduates. With time and determination I stand every chance of becoming a regional director of taxes.

When people talk about pay structures in the civil service and other establishments, they often say that the Internal Revenue Service is one of the best-paid jobs in the country. Unfortunately, this notion is wrong. We now take the same level of pay as other civil and public servants in the country. None of us enjoys annual leave allowance or any form of bonus. Nor does the service have specific accommodation facilities for its workers. Instead, the officials of the Internal Revenue Service struggle alongside civil servants for the few state bungalows and quarters at the regional and district capitals. The fact that we risk our lives to collect taxes for the state and yet do not take home extra pay makes me and other officials of the service feel cheated. We are not compensated for our sufferings.

In order to fight for our rights, the senior officers of the Internal Revenue Service have formed a senior staff association to secure better pay and fringe benefits. I take an active part in the association's activities. I feel it is the only means open to us to engage in meaningful negotiations with the government for an improved pay structure and better working conditions, taking into consideration the important role we perform in raising money for the state.

By the nature of our job we get to know many people, both male and female. Some of them are generally friendly and treat us with respect, thereby raising our egos in public places such as in the market and hospitals. Often times we receive little favors in the form of free lifts and drinks offered to us at public drinking bars by people who operate business and therefore have had direct dealings with our office. Most important, we get the chance to receive favors from drug store operators in the form of free or reduced-price drugs anytime one of us goes to get prescriptions in town. These kinds of favors are open to very few people in Ghana. Some of us therefore come to think that we are adequately compensated for the unattractive pay and as such should work harder to raise funds for the state instead of spending precious time complaining about poor pay and lack of fringe benefits.

I hold the view that man must learn to adjust to what ever pay he is given while he continues to work as hard as ever. He must also continue to carry out peaceful negotiations with his employer