An Accra high court has dismissed an application in which Bishop Daniel Obinim, the Head Pastor of International Godsway Church is challenging the decision of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) requiring him to settle a tax liability of GH¢1,591,797.50 to the state.
Pastor Obinim, the applicant wanted the court to declare that the issuance and service on him to clear his tax liability is null and void.
The tax was on a 21-block property which he rents out as shops and also a hospitality facility, Abroso Guest House Ltd.
In his application to invoke the judicial review jurisdiction of the High Court, the international pastor denied any tax obligation by virtue of the fact that he had fully paid all his tax liabilities.
The head pastor subsequently initiated the action pursuant to Section 42 of the Revenue Administration Act, 2016, Act 915, and joined the GRA and Ecobank Ghana Limited, a third party debtor as respondents.
But in its judgment delivered on May 13, 2020, Justice Doreen G. Boakye-Agyei, presiding, held that the GRA followed the procedure in determining and notifying the applicant of his tax liability.
She said the applicant, not having followed the laid-down procedure to make his objections to be given a hearing as required by law, in the considered opinion of “this court is just setting up his own wilful failure and default as grounds for seeking judicial review”.
Justice Boakye-Agyei stated that the applicant, having admitted that he was served with notice of his tax liability should have followed the prescribed rules to have his grievances addressed.
“He cannot use his failure as a ground to seek judicial review. This instant case is not a proper and appropriate case for the court to exercise its powers of judicial review,” Justice Boakye-Agyei stated.
On November 15, 2018, the GRA served the applicant with a Notice of Tax Due requiring him to settle a tax liability of GH¢1,591,797.50 and followed with a final demand notice on June 17, 2019, requiring him to settle his tax obligation by June 28, 2019.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the GRA, the applicant filed a Notice of Tax Objection which was served on GRA on July 30, 2019.
The applicant’s reasons for his objections were inter alia, that he is the Head Pastor of the International Godsway Church, the church fully takes care of his expenses and he does not receive any remuneration from the church.
Pastor Obinim stated that his only source of income is from his shops which he has paid all tax liabilities.
On February 13, 2020, the GRA proceeded to issue and serve on Ecobank, a third party Debtor Notice demanding Ecobank to pay GH¢1,591,797.50 deemed to be the applicant’s tax liability.
The applicant submitted that until and unless a decision is made and served on him personally, the GRA is estopped under the law to proceed to enforcement as far as the recoveries of the purported sum are concerned.
Pastor Obinim argued that the decision of the GRA to issue a third party Debtor Notice against the applicant was arbitrary, capricious, and lawless and that justice would be best served if the applicant is given a fair hearing as far as the Notice of Objection dated July 29, 2019, is concerned.