Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Property Taxes

Team, you might not believe me, but property taxes are pretty exciting stuff. They can also be super complicated.

In Vancouver, we have an extremely sophisticated property tax and development charge scheme. New developments have to pay all sorts of fees that go back into the community for amenities such as childcare facilities, public parks, and open spaces. I’ve only just brushed the surface of the system in my urban planning masters degree, but it’s super interesting.

In Ghana, however, the system is much more simple. In the Savelugu district, for instance, landowners pay a rate for each building they have on their building. The rate is dependent on the size and aspects of the building, although the assessment scheme is a somewhat guarded secret held by the rate assessors.

Businesses, on the other hand, pay a fee for operating their business.

If a business is renting a building to use as a store, the landowner will pay the property tax rate whereas the business owner will pay the operating fee.

Right now, this is the Savelugu system but it isn’t universally applied. For taxation to be successful, people have to actually pay taxes. Moreover, the common person has to believe that his/her neighbour is paying. It should be seen as something you automatically do, like how we file our income taxes back home. Not paying needs to a criminal offence.

Amplify Governance isn’t trying to change Savalugu’s system; they’re trying to make it possible to operate. Savelugu doesn’t have the background data for taxation yet – but hopefully with GIFTS they will soon.

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