Expats moving to Ghana will find that financial matters in this West African destination aren't overly complicated, as one might initially expect. Banking in Ghana is very easy once new arrivals have opened an account, and tax laws are straightforward.
Money in Ghana
The Ghanaian currency is the Cedi (GHS) and is divided into 100 pesewas (Gp).
The US Dollar (USD) is widely accepted in restaurants and stores, especially in cities, but smaller notes and traveller's cheques are not always accepted.
Notes: GHS 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200
Coins: Gp 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50, and GHS 1
The 1 pesewa is largely out of circulation.
Money can be exchanged at currency exchange agencies, banks, the airport and in major hotels. Most forex bureaux do not require identification, but exchange desks at hotels usually require expats to present their passport. Currency exchange agencies are widely available and usually offer competitive exchange rates, but will either give a lower rate on small denominations or not accept them at all. Bank exchange rates are also becoming more favourable.
Expats must not exchange cash with strangers on the street as this is often a scam part of the illegal black market currency exchange involving counterfeit money.
It's fairly easy to bring money into Ghana, but strict maximums exist for taking money out of the country. Expats should be careful not to accumulate too many cedis, as they may have problems taking the cash out of Ghana.
Banking in Ghana
All banks in Ghana do business in English, as this is the official language of the country. Most banks offer current and savings accounts, and letters of credit and loans to citizens and expats alike, but interest rates on loans can be high.
Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered and Stanbic are all international banks that are represented in Ghana and are recommended for expats. Internet, telephone and cellphone banking are also available as banks strive to compete locally and internationally, and provide support and services online.
Banking hours in Ghana are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30 or 5pm, although some banks close earlier on Fridays and others are open on Saturday till 12pm.
Opening a bank account
The best way to access and deal with money in Ghana is to open up a bank account. To open a bank account in Ghana, most establishments require that expats show their passport as identification. Necessary documents vary across banks. Some may require proof of residence, a letter of introduction from a bank in their home country, a personal reference from current account holders of the bank and a reference from their employer in Ghana.
For those earning foreign currency for their work in Ghana, it is best to set up an offshore account with a major bank. The bank will have a financial adviser that can assist expats with this process. The offshore account will be linked to a Visa debit card which can be used internationally at any Visa point of sale or online with services such as Paypal.
It is not a good idea to have foreign currency paid into a local bank account in Ghana as it will be difficult to take money out when leaving the country.
Credit cards and ATMs
ATMs are readily available in Ghanaian cities and most international Visa cards are accepted at these machines. Mastercard and American Express are less common, so expats planning to withdraw from an international account should make an effort to get a Visa card.
Ghana is a predominantly cash-based society and the prevalence of credit card fraud makes it unwise to use cards too liberally. Credit card and ATM facilities are also quite rare in rural areas of Ghana.
Taxes in Ghana
Foreigners living in Ghana for 183 days or more over 12 months are considered residents of the country and must pay taxes based on their worldwide income.
Taxes in Ghana are charged on a graduated scale while non-residents are charged a flat rate on their income derived from within the country. Most companies in Ghana cover the applicable taxes for their expat employees and pay either an offshore salary or a combination of an offshore and local salary.
Expats should refer to the Ghana Revenue Authority website and consult a financial adviser and tax specialist to ensure that they have a full understanding of taxes in Ghana.
Taxpayers must contribute towards the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT). There are several situations whereby individuals may be exempt. Expats who reside in Ghana for less than three years may obtain an exemption as well as those who provide evidence that they contribute to a similar scheme in their country of origin.
Expats who are permanently leaving Ghana and make social security contributions may be reimbursed. This is if they have complied with tax regulations and have sent a letter to the Ghana Immigration Service formally declaring that they are permanently emigrating from Ghana.
Ghana has double taxation agreements with a number of other countries, including South Africa, Italy, and the United Kingdom. In such cases, expats may be entitled to tax relief.
Several situations allow deductions and tax relief, including a dependent spouse, dependent children, if the taxpayer is disabled, over 60 years old or supports a relative over 60 years old.