“Every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. The great and chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property.” ~John Locke, English philosopher and political theorist, 1632-1704.

TESHIE, Accra — Shoot me. That’s the only chance you’ve got before you have forced me and my family into paying Property Tax to some Government. I don’t care what the money is collected for. I really don’t. Why pay someone somewhere on something my ancestors have owned for 700 years? This is the question. I will spare you our 700 year history and how we came to acquire our lands and homes in Teshie-Maamli.

But, I recently helped my family put a new roof on a family building in Teshie, near Tiafi-Ahe, on the seashore side of town. Only to be sent a letter that my great grandfather whose name is still on the house owes the Ghana IRS back taxes amounting to much more than the house is worth. I had no idea that Ghana, under the auspices of the IRS, collected property rates on immovable property – on our lands and on our homes. My cousins have lived in Teshie all their lives, they have heard of no such thing.

The tax is apparently levied annually by the Ledzokuku Constituency Local Authorities on the estimated value of the land and the structure(s) on the land. Mind you, we have a seven chamber-and-hall house, a two-bedroom self-contained, a fishmongers shed (featuring four drum-ovens for smoking fish and two deep fry ovens), two car garages, another shed for two Blo’odo ovens (bread ovens), a Kenkey shed (three stalls for fermenting corn dough and three wood stoves for boiling Kenkey), a street-view store for selling ‘tinapa’ and banku, six outdoor showers and ten outdoor Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pits (KVIPs). Grass in between, a tiny dusty playground on the side for newly arriving babies and a well centered concrete circle (formerly for mixing cement) for bathing new babies!

A cursory look over historical rates will put all these structures on my ancestral land – which my ancestors paid for in blood – within a range of taxation from 0.5 percent to 3 percent of the value of the property. Before you forget, our children, including my own strong two, recite “wo tsemei shwie la shi, dani ame kpor ke ha wo” at the Nshornaa Basic School every day. Meanwhile, around the nation other kids recount the blood their ancestors also poured for their own lands and access to private property: “Mogya a nananom hwie gu, nya de to ho ma yen,” or “Mia togbuiwo tso wofe agbe gbledeta xoe name.”

So, shoot me. Property tax? Over my dead body.

I was even accosted by a tax representative from Kotobabi over a morning palaver that these rates were by far, the highest rates paid on properties in the capital, Accra, in comparison with other regions of Ghana. I shall desist from the obvious, but let me make a quick point. If my ancestral land is in Teshie, and my family house is built on it, then if I have to pay tax at all, I must pay more tax than someone from Kpanlogo-Dzidzinabu in the Eastern Region?

Add to this, the AMA (Accra Metropolitan Assembly) announces new rates at general meetings with fanfare at their behest, without any attention to the decorum of regularity, without the accountability of a government institution and without the civility to consult the elders of Teshie or the descendants of the men and women who poured blood to acquire these lands and homes. The last Assembly that my tax representative could recall was held on 31st October 2013 and published in the Local Government Bulletin, No.4, of 24th January 2014. But, who was there?

“Taxation on ancestral lands and property was unimaginable fifty years ago,” my clan head would insist. And, I agree, it is a Trompe-l’œil of nationhood. How much more 100 or 200 years ago? Even one’s labour – now heavily taxed in Teshie – would have been unheard of to tax, unless the community agreed that labour be contributed to benefit the whole community for a specific period. Not forever! I don’t recall my grandfather ever paying ten percent of his Okro harvest to the functional illiterates of the Government of Ghana every year. And that was only 20 years ago. He will turn upside down in his grave if I failed to protect the land and the customary laws of my ancestors. I cannot be punked into relinquishing my duties to my ancestral land and home to the Government of Ghana. No.

Why?

If we have to pay tax on our ancestral lands in Teshie, then we can no longer own what we have already paid for in blood. A tax on our ancestral lands and homes should be considered a direct theft, an outright assault against our shared history, our heritage and above all, a daily travesty of our collective memory – garnished with our national anthem to boot – of land our ancestors bought for us in blood.

Well, the faineant Government of Ghana, whoever they think they are – those perksnifian tartuffes – would have to take it away in blood. I have thoroughly massaged the letter, I have used it appropriately and I have tossed it where it belongs, the KVIP. We wait for the IRS in Teshie. Tswa Omanye aba!

12 COMMENTS

  1. I pay income tax. I pay import tax, export tax and have you seen how many taxes we pay at the pump? VAT, this, that, nyamaaa! I have no interest in paying property tax. In fact, my whole town has no interest in it. All the taxes we already pay is enough to erect some beautifully adequate infrastructure. If they cannot even show that money, why would I give them more?

  2. Hahahaha, ey, Narmer! Na Property tax kakraaa you go pay?

    But then I get the import of your resolve. It’s fascinating to see. Property tax in Ghana is tantamount to a government committed to stealing everything from the poor man. It cannot and should not be tolerated ooooooh pom!

  3. Didn’t read the whole piece, but arguments could be made for and against property taxes. Local governments can really use the revenue to dramatically improve and maintain the infrastructure and services in their municipalities.

    However not to be naive I also understand that this will be very difficult to implement in Ghana and Africa there is very little oversight or accountability if any when it comes to government spending. The taxes will quickly be used to fund the extravagant lifestyles of a few and this additional expense will decimate poor homes.

    In that regard I would agree with the writer. Property taxes just don’t make any sense in an economy where there is simple no oversight and accountability. On the flip side a lot of these municipalities will continue to have to deal with horrible infrastructure and services.

  4. I continue to feel sad everyday when some few elite class in the name of representative of the people go ahead passing immoral law to enslave their own people for the sake of dollar filled sacks and short term self interest.

    My brother since there is a law passed, your volume of speech to the politicians and the civil servant in-charge is assumed to be an exercise of mediocrity.
    Whether it evil or immoral the passed law make it legal and mandatory which to them is superior above all the other variables.

  5. Their law is their law. Whatever it took to pass it. I think the people I have spoken of abide by other laws too – some are customary and others are deeply religious. I wait for those who passed such laws. I wait for them in Teshie where they must come to enforce their law. I guess we’ll see. Or?

    • They will use the police, as part of their agency to enforce the law, have you forgotten that? And possibly criminalise your defense and finally “effect” arrest.

      The state government has alway be a big thieve with the use of power to steal from the people with impunity.

      • The day the Kpeshie Police will step into Teshie-Maamli with their nonsense, the government as we know it will cease to exist! I can assure you, we will not take kindly to thieves whole resort to nothing but taxes only to loot us in broad daylight.

    • I pay income tax. I pay import tax, export tax and have you seen how many taxes we pay at the pump? VAT, this, that, nyamaaa! I have no interest in paying property tax. In fact, my whole town has no interest in it. All the taxes we already pay is enough to erect some beautifully adequate infrastructure. If they cannot even show that money, why would I give them more?

    • ur absolutely right! no taxation without tangible demonstration of prudent and responsible government spending!!

    • Property Tax is a bogus tactic used to enslave everyone. Property tax to whom? Instead of blindly following in the footsteps of aristocratic governments, let’s build a real democracy! Any such taxes, if at all, should all go to the district whose account must be overseen by the district accountant who swears on the money with his dear life!

  6. We deserve to live a property-tax free life! To hell with anyone who claims I don’t own my ancestral lands!

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