“In this world nothing can be certain…,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “…except death and taxes.” Effective government service requires sources of reliable tax revenue. We know this to be true when we look at our pay stubs to consider what goes to the IRS and Social Security, when we pay our state sales tax, or when we pay our county property tax.
But we want our taxes to be fair, we want our taxing authorities to work to the highest levels of efficiency and integrity, and we expect outstanding service. Integrity, Fairness, Service is the motto of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
In June, three employees of the Ghana Revenue Authority traveled from Accra, Ghana, to Seattle to attend a week of King County GIS Center training classes taught by Mary Ullrich, our senior GIS instructor (Fundamentals of ArcGIS and Intermediate ArcGIS Concepts). I sat down to talk about the Ghana Revenue Authority and their plans for GIS with Mrs. Esther Apawu-Odai, Mr. Edward Kwaku Appiah, and Mr. Israel Dzokoto.
The Ghana Revenue Authority includes three divisions that report to the Commissioner General: the Customs Division, the Domestic Tax Revenue Division, and the Support Services Division. Support Services includes Information Technology and a newly formed Research, Planning and Monitoring Department.
Mrs. Apawu-Odai is deputy commissioner of the Research, Planning and Monitoring Department, Mr. Appiah is assistant deputy commissioner, and Mr. Dzokoto is a senior technology researcher. They are exploring the use of GIS to make the work of the Ghana Revenue Authority more efficient. Unlike the U.S., Ghana does not have an income tax. Chief revenue sources are a VAT (value-added or sales tax on goods and services), taxes on rent revenue, and taxes on international trade.
Mr. Dzokoto explained that they have started using GPS for analysis of tax revenue. Street addressing is not as well standardized in Ghana as it is in some other countries, so developing a spatial database to record tax payments and delinquencies has been difficult in the past. Now field tax agents are using GPS to record the location of businesses and residences where taxes are paid. They hope to manage and analyze this data using a variety of GIS-based tools and applications.
Mr. Appiah said that they hope to send more students to attend KCGIS training in Seattle, to build a cadre of skilled analysts who can apply geospatial technology for modern, effective tax revenue management.
Mrs. Apawu-Odai added that their ultimate goal is to develop a full enterprise GIS capability. She was interested to learn about the King County GIS Operations and Maintenance Plan, the 2012 King County GIS ROI Study, and our use of the URISA GIS Capability Maturity Model to analyze internal GIS resources and processes.
The King County GIS Center Training Program is designed primarily to serve King County employees, but we attract students from across the county, state, region…and the world!
Greg Babinski is KCGIS Center Finance and Marketing Manager.