Parliament has approved GH¢174.69 million waiver of income tax on personal emoluments of health workers and on additional allowances paid to frontline health personnel for the months of July to September 2020.
The waiver was requested by the Minister for Finance in line with national measures outlined for combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah in presenting the Committee’s report to the plenary, underscored the need for the tax waiver.
He indicated that as part of measures to support frontline personnel in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the government, led by President Nana Akufo-Addo decided that all health workers would not pay taxes on their emoluments for a three-month period, commencing April 2020.
Again, all frontline health workers would also receive an additional allowance of 50 per cent of their basic salary per month tax free for the period March to June, 2020.
“To support health workers in the continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Government has decided to extend these incentives granted to health workers to cover the months of July, August and September 2020,” Dr. Assibey-Yeboah stated in the Committee’s report.
According to the report, the total amount of Income Taxes for which the waiver is being sought is GH¢174.69, broken down as Personal Emoluments of GHS 168.98 million and GH¢ 5.71 million for additional allowances.
Dr Assibey-Yeboah noted the high risk of COVID-19 infection among doctors, nurses and others on the front lines leading to death in some cases.
Additionally, the report noted the considerable mental stress of health workers as a result of the sorrow they felt when patients succumbed to the virus.
“They too have families, and will naturally be fearful that the virus might reach those they love most.
“The above factors, together with the added pressure of work places a lot of strain on health workers who overcome their own fears to put themselves on the line daily to treat the sick and to combat the pandemic,” the report said.
The tax incentive, according to the report, was designed as a token compensation to encourage healthcare workers, especially frontline health personnel to continue to make sacrifices in caring for those infected with the virus and caring for the sick in general during the difficult times.
The House learnt that the requested tax incentives covered health workers in the frontline health facilities, quasi government health facilities, quasi government health facilities and private health facilities.
There was however a challenge in defining who a “frontline health worker” was.
However, in collaboration with relevant agencies, a working definition of “Frontline Health Workers” was accepted, and it included people working in the most critical and risky areas in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, the number of health workers who fell into the “frontline category for the months of April, May and June 2020 were 6,091, 7,418 and 7,196 respectively, with corresponding expenditure on Additional Allowances being GH¢6.5 million for the months of April, May and June 2020 respectively.
Seconding the motion for the adoption of the report, MP for Ho Central Mr Benjamin Kpodo, called for an expansion of the definition of frontline health workers to include all people who put their lives on the line in caring, in all aspects and transportation of people infected with the virus even though they may not be medical staff.