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Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies has appealed to the leadership in the private sector as well as civil society, to support the efforts of the administration to collect from persons who have so far managed to evade the tax net.
Dr. Davies said while the efforts were not indicative of a “crusade”, as there was acceptance of the “prime responsibility to pursue those outside of the tax net. there was need to get rid of some of the hypocrisy in terms of persons advocating widening the tax net, but seeming to accommodate, in certain instances, outright cheating and avoidance in other instances”.
“I am appealing to leadership in the private sector, I am appealing to civil society to join with us, because this drive to collect more has to become part of the normal ethic,” the Minister emphasized, adding that, “the extent to which we don’t collect from those who owe, is the extent to which those who pay feel oppressed and feel that they are carrying too much of the burden, which in fact is so”.
Dr. Davies was speaking at a post Budget Debate press conference at the Finance Ministry at Heroes Circle in Kingston, yesterday (April 28).
Noting that efforts would also extend to making collections under the arrears programme, which is already in force, Minister Davies said in the meantime, steps were being taken to eliminate the difficulties in the present system, which was a source of frustration to those who were willing to pay.
“We are trying to make that easier for them but there are groups which have just not become adjusted to the notion of making that contribution and we are introducing them to the tax system and pursuing them,” the Minister said.
Financial Secretary, Collin Bullock, said the collection of the General Consumption Tax (GCT) was one of the areas in which compliance could be improved and would be worked on. “It is known that there are companies which collect GCT and (neglect) to pay over to the government,” he pointed out.
“It’s an area where we are in fact working on through our voluntary compliance programme, trying to get the people to increase their remittal of GCT,” the Financial Secretary said, adding that there were other instances of delinquency, some of which “were criminal”, with respect to the collection of the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes and GCT, among others.
“There are indications that this has been happening and there are efforts in place to encourage the people to become more current with their payments,” Mr. Bullock said.
He emphasized that the revenue collection targets were feasible, given the existing arrears programme and the current collection drive.
“There are arrears out there to collect, there are people out there who have not paid taxes for years and we can go after that,” Mr. Bullock said.
He said rather than resorting to punishment for offending persons and using the powers of enforcement, ranging from court summons to levy warrants, there was much that could be done under the voluntary compliance programme to increase the tax flow, inclusive of informing persons about the payment process, training of tax auditors and tax collection officers and the use of more efficient systems, including the point of sale system as well as e-payment system.
The Financial Secretary informed that the current efforts of tax officers who have been negotiating on a “one on one basis” with delinquent persons, have been bearing fruit.
“We are trying to make the system easier for persons to pay taxes and it has been working, but there are arrears out there that we can collect,” he added.