The Government has achieved most of its tax reform objectives, Director General of Tax Administration, Mrs. Viralee Latibeaudiere has asserted.
Addressing a Jamaica Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum on tax administration reform, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, in New Kingston, today (February 10), Mrs. Latibeaudiere pointed to some of the milestones that have been achieved.
“We were able to establish the Project Office by May 2010, as required. We have developed a fully costed project action plan to guide the reform through 2010 to 2013, and we have selected and assigned the Commissioner General- designate, and the three Deputy Commissioners General (who) will be contracted as of December 1, 2010. These milestones are set out in the IMF (International Monetary Fund) agreement,” she said.
The reform process realised some early deliverables in 2009, such as the implementation of the Large Taxpayer Office, which collected $1.1 billion in arrears for 2009/2010, and $60.3 billion in revenues between April and December of 2010; the Customer Care Centre; the Forensic Data Mining Unit; and a Special Enforcement Team. The Department has also moved out of the Ministry of Finance, and established its headquarters at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) building on Trafalgar Road, in New Kingston.
Additionally, an Information Communication Technology strategy has been developed, as set out under the IMF agreement, and the Semi Autonomous Revenue Tax Administration (SARA) business case has been developed.
SARA, a critical arm of the reform, is to be set up by April 2011, and the reform process fully implemented by April 2012. SARA is a governance regime, which provides greater budget and human resource autonomy than that afforded a department in a Ministry.
This semi-autonomous administration structure has an independent Management Board that provides support and approval of plans, budgets and human resource policies and programmes. Since 1989, SARA has become the preferred operational model in more than 40 countries.
Meanwhile, an operations concept has been developed, to propel the reform process. “We will be developing a customer centric business model, using risk management methodologies. It will be technology driven, promoting self service, the human resource and budget will have some flexibility, and we will have a new governance structure,” Mrs. Latibeaudiere said.
The approach taken to achieve these milestones, the Director General outlined, was a governmental commitment to strengthen tax administration as part of the IMF stand-by agreement; accelerated tax and customs administration reforms; and improved compliance management
Other general objectives of the reform are: to create a Revenue Appeals Department in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, by April 2011; and to give Jamaica Customs Executive Agency status by April 2013.
Specifically, the reform aims to consolidate operations of the Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department, Inland Revenue Department and the Tax Administration Services Department, to form a single Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), which will improve service delivery, efficiency andeffectiveness; simplify administrative and business processes; enhance communication and information channels; improve voluntary compliance; and increase collections.
This reform process was launched in 2009, as a condition of the IMF/Government of Jamaica (GoJ) Standby agreement in 2010, and follows critical assessment by the IMF and the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC), in which significant weaknesses were identified in the tax administration system.
CONTACT: ALPHEA SAUNDERS