Ghana has recently changed some of its tax laws. These changes took effect starting on the 3rd of April 2023.  Overall, the intention seems to be to raise revenue for the government, which is in sore need of this revenue to finance its budget. So, the changes are mostly detrimental to taxpayers, and some are quite dramatic.

We have highlighted some of the changes, which are very likely to affect most foreign investors in the country. 

Personal Income Tax

The top rate of income tax for individuals has been increased to 35%, on income above GHS 600,000 (about USD 51,000).

Business taxes

Foreign exchange gains and losses

Foreign exchange losses will now only be an allowable deduction if they are realised.  Losses of a capital nature will not be allowed as a deduction but can be added to the cost of an asset, if applicable.

There is now an asymmetry with foreign exchange gains, in that these remain taxable whether realised or unrealised. Minimum Tax

A minimum tax, of 5% of turnover, will apply to companies with persistent losses.  This applies to a company with losses in five consecutive years.  The tax rate is quite high, compared with the minimum tax rate in Nigeria for example.

Losses

A business can set off losses arising in any of the previous five years.

Capital Gains

A return must be filed within 30 days of the disposal of an asset (or realisation of a liability).

There is withholding tax on capital gains, at the rate of 3% if the realisation is by a resident, or 10% if it is by a non resident.

Growth & Sustainability Levy (GSL).

The GSL is supposed to be temporary, but so was the previous National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy (NFSL) which the GSL has replaced. The GSL is an extra income tax, but with no relief for losses brought forward. It applies for the years 2023 to 2025 and must be paid quarterly. For most businesses, it will be based on Earnings Before Tax, at either 2,5% or 5%, depending on the type of business.

For Mining and Oil Production companies, GSL will be 1% of revenue.

For most businesses, this is a second income tax, but which does not recognise losses brought forward.

Betting or Gambling

Ghana has recently made significant changes to the taxes levied on the betting and gaming industry.  There are two changes specific to the industry.  We understand that discussions are still taking place between the industry and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) about how and when these changes will be implemented.

It is worth stressing that the GSL will apply to the betting or gambling industry, so that companies will pay tax both on turnover and profit.

Income Tax based on GGR rather than on profit

Income tax will now be levied at 20% of gross gaming revenue, and not on profits.

Gross Gaming Revenue is amounts staked less winnings.  This should exclude free bets, cancelled or void bets. Companies will thus need to think about how to treat bonus winnings, as the tax treatment will depend on how the customer can use the winnings.  GRA has indicated that free bets should be included in GGR.

Companies may need to agree the accounting treatment of this tax with their auditors.  Income tax is normally recorded as a tax expense, after the Profit Before Tax line in the Income Statement.  This tax is still levied under the Income Tax Act, but it is levied on the company’s turnover (GGR), and not on its profits.

Another issue may arise when the company declares a dividend, if that dividend is then taxed in the hands of the shareholder.  Some countries grant a double tax credit not just for the Ghana withholding tax, but also the income tax paid by the company in Ghana (Underlying Tax).  It is possible that some foreign countries will not recognise the tax computed on GGR as a tax on income.

We understand that income tax losses brought forward can still be set off against GGR.  Lots to keep an eye on here – it’s new, it’s complex and we are not sure that the tax authority fully understands the industry and its peculiarities.

Withholding tax on winnings at 10%

Companies will have to deduct withholding tax at 10% from all winnings, which will obviously be a cost for the winning customers.  If a company does not deduct the withholding tax and pay it over to the tax authority (GRA), then the company will itself be liable for the tax.  GRA announced that this new tax on 27 April, with the implementation date of (wait for it) 1 May, but seems to have accepted that some delay is inevitable.

It will clearly be impossible for companies to comply with this so quickly, and even amending the relevant software and systems so that the withholding tax can be computed and deducted will take months.

Commercially, clearly all companies should implement the withholding tax at the same time. If some companies start deducting withholding tax, and other companies do not, customers are likely to move their business to the companies that do not deduct it.  This would reward non-compliance and penalise compliant companies.

We struggle to understand how physical casinos will implement this. In such a casino, it is normal for a customer to re-cycle any winnings into further games.  Looking at the way games are played, there is no practical opportunity for the casino to withhold tax on winnings between games.  It will be interesting to see how the GRA will deal with this, and whether they will include any guidance in the Practice Note that is expected, and whether this will produce a system that creates a “level playing field” for the different types of gambling.

Our view is that the tax should be imposed on “real winnings” and not on the return of the amount staked.

Overall, it’s a tricky time to be doing business in Ghana, especially in the gaming or betting industry.  Contact us for a free consultation to see how these changes could impact you.

Russell Eastaugh

About the author:

Today’s newsletter was written by Russell Eastaugh, our African advisory lead. Russell has 40 years of experience across Africa, including as a partner at PwC Nigeria and PwC Uganda. Contact Russell Eastaugh at reastaugh@reganvanrooy.com