Viralee Bailey-Latibeaudiere is best described as a tax guru.
One of the Caribbean’s leading authorities on tax administration, her impressive portfolio in leadership, management expertise and experience led to her appointment as the first Commissioner General of the then newly established Tax Department in 2011, presently called the Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ). Her journey in this profession started straight out of sixth form at high school, on January 5, 1981, when she was employed at the Land Valuation Department, now known as the National Land Agency (NLA).
Speaking with JIS News during a recent interview, Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere, recalls that her interest in figures began when she was around 10 years old.
“My mother was a businesswoman, and I was always responsible for the financial part of the business. I loved to collect and manage money from an early age,” she says. An alumna of Clarendon College, Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere’s childhood was spent between Chateau District and May Pen in the central parish. She says that after completing sixth form with passes in economics and the sciences, she harboured thoughts of becoming a nurse.
“However, this was thwarted because I could not take the sight of blood, and I said, ‘this is not for me’; I am going to be an economist,” she recalls.
As she outlined her journey to becoming one of Jamaica’s top tax experts, Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere tells JIS News that her intention was to spend one year at the Land Valuation Department and then go on to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to pursue a degree in economics.
However, in August 1981 she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue studies as a real estate valuer at the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), now the University of Technology (Utech), and was a part of the second batch of students to do this training in Jamaica.
“I believe it was God’s divine purpose for my life because, at that time, being a valuer meant entering a male-dominated field. However, I was persuaded to accept this three-year scholarship to be trained as a valuer,” she says.
Her employment at the Land Valuation Department lasted seven years, after which she was seconded to the Stamp Duty and Transfer Tax (SDTT) Department and moved up to become the Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Department.
Consequent on the 1995 Tax Administration Reform Project (TaxARP) the SDTT Department, along with the Income Tax Department and the General Consumption Tax (GCT) Department were merged to form the Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department (TAAD).
Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere tells JIS News that several times during her tenure in government she was reassigned virtually overnight to resolve issues relating to tax collections and compliance. For example, while serving as Deputy Commissioner of the SDTT Division in 2002, she was transferred to a similar role at the TAAD to manage audit compliance.
In another instance, she was asked to serve as the Acting Commissioner at the Inland Revenue Department and, subsequently, as Commissioner, to solve the problems associated with compliance and collection of revenues owing to the Government of Jamaica.
In 2009, she was again transferred to the Ministry of Finance to lead a major tax reform project while carrying out the functions as Director General of Tax Administration, overseeing five tax departments with a collective staff complement of approximately 4,000 persons.
These are TAAD, Tax Administration Services Department, Inland Revenue Department, Jamaica Customs Department and Taxpayer Appeals Department.
Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere’s leadership in that project resulted in the transformation and restructuring of the five tax departments to become three departments – Domestic Tax Department or TAJ; the International Tax Department or Jamaica Customs Department (now Jamaica Customs Agency); and the Tax Appeals Department, now the Revenue Appeals Division under the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.
Her steady and progressive leadership and excellence in all her undertakings led to her appointment to one of the highest ranks in the public service, to become the first Commissioner General of the TAJ from 2011 to 2014, with more than 2,500 members of staff.
Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere has also served as Jamaica’s Country Representative at the international and regional levels, to include the Caribbean Organization of Tax Administration, the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre, the Inter-American Centre of Tax Administration, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Fiscal Affairs Department. She tells JIS News that her accomplishments over the decades must be attributed to her hallmark of excellence in all her pursuits and her supportive staff at the various levels.
Ainsley Powell, who took over the reins as Commissioner General in 2014 and who also served as Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere’s Senior Technical Advisor, says she exuded a wealth of knowledge and expertise.
“I was allowed to really do what was necessary in my view; she gave me that kind of room to do the things that needed to have been done at the time,” Mr. Powell says.
On National Heroes’ Day 2021, Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere was among the distinguished Jamaicans, who were recognised for their contribution to nation building, when she was bestowed with the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander (CD) for her contribution to Public Service. “I am feeling honoured and grateful to be a recipient of this prestigious award, which is saying that my work in the public service has been recognised,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere currently serves as the Senior Technical Advisor to the Government on the Administration of Taxes and manages the process for appointments to boards of public bodies within the ambit of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.
She is also highly respected in the real estate field, with more than 35 years of experience in real estate management. She lectures at UTech, training students in Real Estate Management, Land Economics and Marketing Management. Mrs. Bailey-Latibeaudiere is a widow and mother of a son.