1. Introduction

Indirect taxes play a pivotal role in Ghana’s fiscal system by providing a stable revenue stream for government operations and public services while distributing the tax burden across a broad spectrum of the population. These taxes, such as value-added tax (VAT), excise duties, and customs duties, generate significant revenue without directly impacting individual incomes, thus ensuring a more equitable distribution of tax liability. Moreover, they serve as potent tools for economic policy, facilitating the regulation of consumption patterns, incentivizing domestic production, and protecting local industries. In the context of Ghana’s evolving economic landscape, the strategic utilization of indirect taxes not only bolsters fiscal sustainability but also fosters economic growth and development.


  1. Overview of the indirect tax landscape in Ghana

The indirect tax landscape in Ghana presents a multifaceted framework comprising various taxes aimed at generating revenue and regulating economic activities. At its core stands the Value Added Tax (VAT) system, which encompasses both standard and exempted goods and services, thereby structuring consumption patterns and revenue generation. Excise duties further contribute to this landscape by targeting specific goods such as alcohol, tobacco, and petroleum products, serving both revenue and regulatory purposes. Additionally, customs duties play a significant role in regulating international trade, ensuring compliance with tariff regulations, and protecting domestic industries. This comprehensive system of indirect taxation reflects Ghana’s efforts to balance revenue generation with economic regulation and development objectives, albeit amidst the challenges of compliance, enforcement, and periodic reforms.

  • Types of Indirect Taxes in Ghana

The types of indirect taxes in Ghana are the Value Added Tax (VAT), the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), the Ghana Education Trust Fund Levy (GETFL), Import duties and Excise Duties. The following paragraphs will discuss the various types in detail.


  1. Value Added Tax (VAT)

Ghana’s Value Added Tax (VAT) system, established under the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870) and its amendments, is a consumption tax levied on the supply of goods and services and on imports, with the standard VAT rate set at 15%[1]. Additionally, there is a National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) of 2.5% and a Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) levy of 2.5%, effectively bringing the total VAT rate to 22% on taxable supplies. Certain goods and services are exempt from VAT, including basic food items, healthcare, education, financial services, and residential property leases and sales, aimed at reducing the tax burden on essential and socially important sectors[2]. Businesses with an annual turnover exceeding GHS 200,000 are required to register for VAT, file regular returns, and maintain accurate records of all transactions to ensure compliance and facilitate audits by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)[3]


  1. National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL)

The National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) in Ghana was introduced to provide sustainable funding for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which aims to offer equitable and accessible healthcare services to all residents[4]. Implemented as part of the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870), the NHIL is set at a rate of 2.5% and is applied to the same taxable base as VAT, encompassing the supply of goods and services as well as imports[5]. Businesses that are liable for VAT are also required to collect and remit NHIL, ensuring that the levy is integrated into the standard VAT compliance framework. Compliance involves the registration of businesses with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), accurate record-keeping of NHIL-related transactions, and the regular filing of returns and payment of the collected levy to the GRA, typically on a monthly basis[6].


  1. Ghana Education Trust Fund Levy (GETFL)

The Ghana Education Trust Fund Levy (GETFL), established under the Ghana Education Trust Fund Act, 2000 (Act 581), is a tax set at a rate of 2.5% on the supply of goods and services, designed to support educational infrastructure and facilities. The GETFL is collected through mechanisms similar to those used for Value Added Tax (VAT), including business registration, periodic filing, and payment to the Ghana Revenue Authority. The funds generated from GETFL are allocated to the Ghana Education Trust Fund, which is mandated to utilize these resources for the development and maintenance of educational institutions, provision of scholarships, and improvement of teaching and learning materials across Ghana.[7]


  1. Import Duties

In Ghana, import duties are governed by the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) and subsequent amendments, which outline the various taxes and tariffs imposed on goods entering the country. Import duties apply to a wide range of goods, including consumer products, machinery, vehicles, and raw materials, with rates varying based on the type and value of the goods. Generally, import duty rates range from 0% to 20%, depending on the classification under the Harmonized System (HS) code, with essential goods such as certain pharmaceuticals and educational materials often enjoying exemptions or lower rates to promote accessibility and development[8]. Additional levies like the Value Added Tax (VAT), National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), and the ECOWAS Levy may also be applicable to imports.[9] However, exemptions can be granted for specific categories, such as goods for diplomatic missions, certain agricultural inputs, and items imported under special government programs to encourage industrialization and investment.[10]

  1. Excise Duties

Excise duties in Ghana are levied on specific goods produced or imported into the country, primarily to generate revenue and regulate the consumption of certain products deemed harmful or luxurious[11]. The excisable goods include alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, petroleum products, and vehicles, with rates varying based on the type of product; for instance, alcoholic beverages attract rates ranging from 10% to 50%, tobacco products up to 175%, and petroleum products a specific duty per litre[12]. Compliance with excise duty regulations requires manufacturers and importers to be registered with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), maintain detailed records of production and imports, and file monthly returns detailing the quantities and types of excisable goods produced or imported, along with the applicable excise duties paid[13].


  1. Impact of Indirect Taxes

Indirect taxes play a significant role in revenue generation for the Ghanaian government, contributing substantially to the country’s overall revenue stream[14]. Over recent years, indirect taxes have shown a consistent upward trend, reflecting both economic growth and adjustments in tax policies aimed at enhancing revenue mobilization[15]. These taxes, including Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duties, and the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), among others, serve as crucial sources of funding for various government expenditures, including infrastructure development, social services, and public administration[16]. By diversifying revenue sources and reducing reliance on direct taxes, indirect taxes help ensure a more stable revenue base, supporting sustainable fiscal policies and enabling the government to meet its financial obligations and developmental objectives[17].


  1. Future trends and challenges of indirect taxation in Ghana

Looking ahead, the future of indirect tax administration in Ghana presents both opportunities and challenges. Anticipated reforms may include the modernization of tax administration systems to enhance efficiency, transparency, and compliance, possibly through the adoption of digital technologies and streamlined processes[18]. However, potential challenges such as tax evasion, the informal economy, and changing consumer behaviors underscore the need for robust enforcement measures and capacity-building initiatives to strengthen compliance and revenue collection[19]. Furthermore, emerging trends such as e-commerce and digital services pose unique challenges in taxing intangible goods and cross-border transactions, necessitating international cooperation and innovative tax policies to address these complexities[20]. To adapt to these changes, stakeholders must prioritize capacity-building efforts, invest in technological infrastructure, and engage in dialogue to develop responsive tax policies that balance revenue objectives with economic growth and social welfare considerations[21].


  1. Conclusion

In conclusion, a comprehensive understanding of indirect taxes is essential for businesses and taxpayers operating within Ghana’s fiscal system. Indirect taxes not only contribute significantly to government revenue but also play a vital role in shaping economic behavior, promoting equity, and funding essential public services. Businesses must navigate the intricacies of indirect tax regulations to ensure compliance, manage costs, and mitigate risks effectively. Moreover, taxpayers benefit from understanding how indirect taxes affect their purchasing decisions, financial planning, and overall economic well-being. Recognizing the dynamic nature of indirect tax regimes and staying abreast of legislative changes and administrative reforms are crucial for both businesses and taxpayers to adapt and thrive in the evolving fiscal landscape of Ghana. Ultimately, a collaborative effort between the government, businesses, and taxpayers is essential to ensure that indirect taxes contribute positively to sustainable economic growth, social development, and fiscal stability in Ghana.

[1] VAT (Amendment) Act, 2022 (Act 1107)

[2] VAT Exemptions Schedule, Ghana Revenue Authority

[3] Ghana Revenue Authority, VAT Registration and Compliance

[4] National Health Insurance Act, 2012 (Act 852)

[5] Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870)

[6] Ghana Revenue Authority, NHIL Compliance Guidelines

[7] Ghana Education Trust Fund Act, 2000 (Act 581).

[8] Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891)

[9] Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Import Duty Rates

[10] Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Import Duty Exemptions

[11] Excise Duty Act, 2014 (Act 878)

[12] Ghana Revenue Authority, Excise Duty Rates

[13] Ghana Revenue Authority, Excise Duty Compliance Guidelines

[14] Ghana Revenue Authority, Tax Revenue Performance Reports

[15] Ministry of Finance, Ghana Economic Outlook Reports

[16] World Bank, Ghana Public Expenditure Review

[17] International Monetary Fund (IMF), Fiscal Policy Reviews in Ghana

[18] Ministry of Finance, Ghana Revenue Mobilization Strategy

[19] World Bank, Ghana Economic Update Reports

[20] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalization Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalization

[21] Ghana Revenue Authority, Strategic Plans and Policy Documents



BY; Portia Adjei-Mensah Esq.


Nartey Law Firm is a leading corporate and commercial law firm in Ghana providing legal services to individuals, domestic and international businesses. Ensuring the success of our clients’ objectives is at the core of what we do.  Comprised of a dedicated team of lawyers with extensive experience in corporate, commercial and international law and litigation, we pride ourselves with the diligent execution of all client matters, whilst guaranteeing an uncompromising standard with respect to excellence in service delivery. Some of our focus areas are Real Estate, Intellectual Property, Energy, Trade and Commerce, Banking and Finance, Regulatory Advisory, Capital Markets and Mergers and Acquisitions.



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