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Debate on the Revenue Administration (Amendment) Act has been suspended until June 18, to allow for further deliberations on the proposals contained in the Act.

The move came after the Opposition raised concern about some of the provisions in the legislation, which seeks to, among other things, bring about significant improvements to the ability of the tax authorities to access tax-related information held by various parties.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, who opened the debate in the House of Representatives yesterday (June 12),  said the legislation will give the Commissioner General of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) the power to demand useful and useable information in a form appropriate to the individual sectors.

He said it will facilitate more efficient and effective exercise of the powers of investigation, audit, assessment collection, and enforcement by TAJ, and improve the quality and usefulness of information supplied to TAJ by various parties on a periodic basis.

“Revenue authorities are currently restricted in their efforts to promote compliance in all sectors of the economy because of their inability to collect and use information that is needed and to identify, register, audit and access certain taxpayers. Lack of information is acknowledged to be one of the main obstacles to tax collections with some known sources of information being sealed off by the present laws,”

Dr. Phillips stated. He argued that there is a high rate of delinquency associated with the undetectable income-generating activities of unregistered persons.

“As the law now stands there are too many opportunities for those who seek to evade taxes and find grounds of resistance to the tax authorities in the form of the secrecy provisions that exists in the current legislation and the overly circumscribed narrow powers of the Commissioner General,” Dr. Phillips stated.

The Act also intends to facilitate a more effective exchange of information with Jamaica’s treaty partners under the various double taxation agreements.

It will also ensure that the information provided will enable Jamaica to meet the international standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.

In his remarks, Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Audley Shaw, argued that more time is needed to get feedback on the provisions on the Bill as the consequences are far reaching.

He noted that the proposed amendments seek to give tax authorities more power than they already have. Mr. Shaw recommended that a Committee of Parliament be formed to hold discussions on the legislation.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter