Lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of the West Indies, Collin Bullock, is suggesting that the Government target wealthy tax evaders as it embarks on tax reform measures.
“We need to go after some of the large delinquents (and) make examples of them to show that nobody is above the law,” Mr. Bullock stated during a recent interview with JIS News.
Mr. Bullock, who is a member of the Government’s Council of Economic Advisors, said that for the reforms to be effective, the process should not only involve introducing new rates or broadening the tax base, but “collecting taxes from people, who can afford to pay, who have been living well, and who have not been paying taxes”.
"So, we’ve got to find the people who can pay and who are outside the tax net and go after those people," he stated.
He argued that once this is done, poorer people in the society “will be more comfortable with their part of the adjustment if those who can afford to pay more, and who are evading taxes, actually are bought into the tax net”.
“That will go a long way in terms of perhaps erasing the burden on the poor and demonstrating that there is a more effective sharing of the burden of the sacrifice that we face,” he added.
Mr. Bullock pointed out that one of the reasons people do not pay taxes is because they feel they can get away with it. He said that there is now a culture of tax avoidance, and the tax dodgers are boasting to those who pay that: ‘you’re an idiot, you’re paying taxes, nobody talks to me’.”
He said he admires countries such as the United States (US) that have strict tax laws and mete out stiff penalties to tax dodgers.
“One of the things we admire about the US is the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) (where) if you don’t get your tax returns in by a certain date and so on, you are now criminally liable,” he stated. The IRS is the US government agency responsible for tax collection and tax law enforcement.
Mr. Bullock further argued that “people, who can afford to pay more, should pay more.”