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13 cocoa buying firms sue COCOBOD, GRA over VAT imposition

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Some thirteen (13) companies registered under the laws of Ghana to carry on business in the Agricultural sector particularly in Cocoa, Shea and Coffee as Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) have sued the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) together with the Commissioner-General of GRA and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board, over a decision by the GRA to begin charging them for Value Added Tax (VAT) having always been exempted from payment of VAT up until 2019,spanning a period of twenty four (24) years.

According to the Statement of Claim filed in Court today the 25th of November 2019, the cocoa buying companies are identified as Kuapa Kooko Company Limited, Federated Commodities Company Limited, Sika Aba Buyers Limited, CDH Commodities Limited, Adikanfo Commodities Limited, and Olam Ghana Limited. The rest are Unicom Commodities Ghana Limited, PBC Limited, Licensed Cocoa Buyers Association of Ghana (LICOBAG), Agrocom Ghana Limited, Nyonkopa Cocoa Buying Limited, Cocoa Merchants Ghana Limited and M. Ghazalli Limited.

It is the argument of the thirteen (13) Plaintiffs that after the promulgation and enactment of the Value Added Tax Law, they and the other Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) have always been exempted from invoicing for VAT purposes, auditing, assessment and/or payment of Value Added Tax (VAT) up until 2019, spanning a period of twenty-four (24) years.

“Throughout this twenty-four (24) year period that the law has been in force, the 1st defendant (GRA) has always audited the books of the Plaintiffs and other LBC’s for purposes of assessing them for taxes other than VAT, without ever questioning, requesting and/or demanding that the Plaintiffs should register and pay Value Added Tax (VAT). The 1st Defendant (GRA) continued to exempt the Plaintiffs and other LBCs from VAT until 2019 when it wrote to the 3rd Defendant (COCOBOD) and copied the Plaintiffs and other LBCs, directing the 3rd DEFENDANT (COCOBOD) to ensure that the Plaintiffs and other LBCs are registered for VAT purposes, and for the 3rd defendant (COCOBOD) to Charge same on the Plaintiffs and other LBC’s” the Statement of Claim stated.

It is the contention of the License Buying Companies that the conduct of the 1st (GRA) and 2nd Defendants (Commissioner General of GRA) smacks of bad faith, unreasonableness, capriciousness and a complete disregard for the law and the economic rights of the Plaintiffs.

The thirteen (13) companies registered to purchase Cocoa are seeking nine (9) reliefs from the Court. Among the reliefs they are seeking are “a declaration that the purported or effective selection or sampling of the Plaintiffs and other Licensed Buying Companies (LBC’s) for audits and assessments for the purposes of levying Value Added Tax (VAT) on them or any completed assessment for the payment of VAT by the Plaintiffs is arbitrary, inequitable, unreasonable, unfair, capricious, in bad faith and therefore unlawful, null and of no effect”.

Furthermore, the plaintiff / Applicants are praying the court for “a declaration that by virtue of the agency relationship between the Plaintiffs (and other LBC’s) and the Ghana Cocoa Board; and/or by virtue of the role played by the Plaintiffs and other LBC’s in relation to the Ghana Cocoa Board, any audit and/or assessment of the Plaintiffs or any other LBC’s for the payment for Value Added Tax (VAT) that leads to any tax liability on the Plaintiffs is a liability incurred by the Plaintiffs on behalf of the Ghana Cocoa Board; and, therefore, the 3rd defendant (Ghana Cocoa Board) is ultimately liable to be discharge any such VAT liability”.

They are also seeking “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st (GRA) and 2nd (Commissioner General of the GRA) defendants, acting either by themselves, their agents, officers, assigns, employees or any other person acting under their instructions from ever auditing, purporting to audit, assessing or purporting to assess the Plaintiffs for the Purposes of charging the Plaintiffs to pay Value Added Tax (VAT)”.

As an alternative to the above reliefs, the Licensed Buying Companies are also seeking” an order for the 3rd (COCOBOD) and 4th (Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD) Defendants to fully indemnify and compensate adequately the Plaintiffs on a full cost recovery basis for all Value Added Tax (VAT) purported to be assessed, actually assessed, charged and paid by the Plaintiffs to the 1st and 2nd Defendant”.

Source: Starrfmonline.com

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