This information is derived from the State Department's Office of Investment Affairs’ Investment Climate Statement. Any questions on the ICS can be directed to EB-ICS-DL@state.gov.
Last Published: 7/24/2017

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives differ slightly depending upon the law under which an investor operates. For example, while all investors operating under the Free Zone Act are entitled to a ten-year corporate tax holiday, investors operating under the GIPC law are not automatically entitled to a tax holiday. Tax incentives vary depending upon the sector in which the investor is operating.

All investment-specific laws contain some incentives. The GIPC law allows for import and tax exemptions for plant inputs, machinery and parts that are imported for the purpose of the investment. Chapters 82, 84, 85, and 89 of the Customs Harmonized Commodity and Tariff Code zero-rate these production items. The Government of Ghana recently imposed a five percent import duty on some items that were previously zero-rated, to conform to the ECOWAS common external tariff.

The Ghanaian tax system is replete with tax concessions that considerably reduce the effective tax rate. The minimum incentives are specified in the GIPC law and are not applied in an ad hoc or arbitrary manner. Once an investor has been registered under the GIPC law, the investor is entitled to the incentives provided by law. The government has discretion to grant an investor additional customs duty exemptions and tax incentives beyond the minimum stated in the law. The GIPC website (http://www.gipcghana.com ) provides a thorough description of available incentive programs. The law also guarantees an investor all the tax incentives provided for under Ghanaian law. For example, rental income from commercial and residential property is exempt from tax for the first five years after construction. Similarly, income from a company selling or leasing out premises is income tax exempt for the first five years of operation. Rural banks and cattle ranching are exempt from income tax for ten years and pay 8 percent thereafter.

The corporate tax rate is 25 percent and this applies to all sectors except income from non-traditional exports (8 percent tax rate) and oil and gas exploration companies (35 percent tax rate). For some sectors there are temporary tax holidays. These sectors include Free Zone enterprises and developers (0 percent for the first ten years and 8 percent thereafter); real estate development and rental (0 percent for the first five years and 25 percent thereafter); agro-processing companies (0 percent for the first five years, after which the tax rate ranges from 0 percent to 25 percent depending on the location of the company in Ghana), and waste processing companies (0 percent for seven years and 25 percent thereafter). Tax rebates are also offered in the form of incentives based on location. A capital allowance in the form of accelerated depreciation is applicable in all sectors except banking, finance, commerce, insurance, mining, and petroleum. Under the new Income Tax law of 2015, all businesses can carry forward tax losses for at least three years.

The government charges a 15 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) plus a 2.5 percent Health Insurance Levy on most imports, all consumer purchases, services, accommodation in hotels and guest houses, food in restaurants, hotels and snack bars, as well as advertising, betting and entertainment. For a list of current exemptions to VAT please visit the Ghana Revenue Authority website at www.gra.gov.gh. The government also charges a 1 percent Tourism Development Levy as seed money for the country’s Tourism Development Fund. As of late 2014, petroleum products are subject to a 15 percent special petroleum tax.

Ghana has no discriminatory or excessively burdensome visa requirements. A foreign investor who invests under the GIPC law is automatically entitled to a specific number of visas/work permits based on the size of the investment. When an investment of $50,000, but not more than $250,000 or its equivalent is made in convertible currency or machinery and equipment, the enterprise can obtain a visa/work permit for one expatriate employee. An investment of $250,000, but not more than $500,000, entitles the enterprise to two automatic visas/work permits. An investment of $500,000, but not more than $700,000, allows the enterprise to bring in three expatriate employees. An investment of more than $700,000 allows an enterprise to bring in four expatriate employees. An enterprise may apply for extra visas or work permits, but the investor must justify why a foreigner must be employed rather than a Ghanaian. There are no restrictions on the issuance of work and residence permits to Free Zone investors and employees. A few American firms have recently reported to the Embassy extensive delays in receiving the work permits to which they are entitled by their investment levels. Overall, the process of issuing work permits is not very transparent.

Ghana has no import price controls. It is pursuing a liberalized import regime policy within the framework of the World Trade Organization to accelerate industrial growth. The Government of Ghana joined other ECOWAS countries by fully implementing the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) in February 2016

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Free Trade Zones were established in May 1996, with one near Tema Steelworks, Ltd., in the Greater Accra Region, and two other sites located at Mpintsin and Ashiem near Takoradi. The seaports of Tema and Takoradi, as well as the Kotoka International Airport and all the lands related to these areas, are part of the Free Zone. The law also permits the establishment of single factory zones outside or within the areas mentioned above. Under the law, a company qualifies to be a Free Zone company if it exports more than 70 percent of its products. Among the incentives for Free Zone companies are a ten-year corporate tax holiday and zero import duty.

To make it easier for Free Zone developers to acquire the various licenses and permits to operate, the Ghana Free Zones Board (www.gfzb.com.gh) provides a "one-stop approval service" to assist in the completion of all formalities. A lack of resources has limited the effectiveness of the Board, however. Foreign employees of Free Zone businesses require work and residence permits.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

In most sectors, Ghana does not have performance requirements for establishing, maintaining, and expanding a business. Investors are not currently required to purchase from local sources or employ prescribed levels of local content, except in the upstream petroleum sector, which is subject to substantial local content requirements. Similar legislation is being drafted for the downstream petroleum and power sectors, but there is no clear timeline for its consideration.

Generally, investors are not required to export a specified percentage of their output, except for Free Zone enterprises which, in accordance with the Free Zone Act, must export 70 percent of their products. Government officials have intimated that local content requirements should be applied to sectors other than petroleum, but currently no local content regulations have been promulgated for other sectors.

As detailed earlier in this report, there are a few areas where the GOG does impose performance requirements including the mining, oil and gas, insurance, and telecommunications sectors.

Data Storage

The Government of Ghana does not follow a forced localization policy in which foreign investors must use domestic content in goods or technology. In addition, there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software or turn over keys for encryption).

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Ghana Economic Development and Investment