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With immediate effect, nineteen senior officers and consultants of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and its tax related agencies have been re-deployed to give momentum to the Ministry’s efforts to reform the Government’s tax administration programme.
Financial Secretary, Sharon Crooks has announced that effective Monday, January 12, the proposed Domestic Tax Administration Project will be activated and that veteran tax executive, Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department, Viralee Latibeaudiere, has been appointed Commissioner General Designate.
The Domestic Tax Administration Project seeks to consolidate the activities of the three departments, Inland Revenue, Tax Audit and Assessment and Tax Administration Services, under the direct authority of the Commissioner General supported by three Deputy Commissioners General. The reform of the Customs Department is to take effect simultaneously.
The new regime is expected to achieve increased revenue through significant improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization of domestic tax; contribute directly to macro-economic stability, stimulate greater voluntary compliance and collect more of the revenues due; reduce dependence on borrowing by making additional financial resources available on a sustainable basis to finance budgetary needs and be able to reduce tax rates through widening of the tax base.
The organizational structure and mandate of the Domestic Tax Administration will provide a clear line of command for all entities such as collectorates, service centres, regional offices and the large taxpayer offices – each with a single head. In addition, functions such as taxpayer registration, collections and enforcement, audit and investigation will be rationalized.
According to Mrs. Crooks, the new structure will eliminate the duplication of services across departments and consolidate the information and communications technology, human resources, finance and administration services.
“The changes provide a welcome oopportunity for better re-engineering of processes to improve efficiency and produce better information for boosting tax compliance. Importantly also we intend to streamline field operations based on taxpayer segmentation. With better and sharper focus and with the segmentation of service to large, medium and small taxpayers our compliance staff will be more effective in the field,” she said.
The Financial Secretary also observed that there would be dedicated programmes to analyse available taxpayer data and better inform operational plans and their execution, as well as specific attention to risk management supported by a stronger Information Technology system and infrastructure.
Other new features to be immediately rolled out in the coming weeks include the establishment of a larger taxpayer office in Kingston to facilitate businesses with the greatest tax liabilities.
Although the new measures coincide with allegations of impropriety and the ensuing investigation at the Customs Department, the Financial Secretary observed the changes were long over-due and were critical to the tax reform and administration process.
“All the officers affected have been positively deployed on the basis of their skills set and the proper functioning of the country’s tax administration. Some of the re-deployments represent lateral moves while others are effective promotions.”
She further stated that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service will continue to emphasize transparency and professional integrity. “While we must seriously and continuously scrutinise the officers who are charged with the responsibility of implementing public policies and the enforcement of tax regulations, we must respect the constitutional right of individuals to natural justice and due process. We continue to insist that all senior officers abide by the constitutional requirement to file their returns to the Corruption Prevention Commission and strictly adhere to the established rules of good conduct and professional responsibility,” Mrs. Crooks said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw emphasized that “the new developments signal the Government’s continued commitment to facilitate businesses, modernize revenue administration, enhance the fiscal prudence and promote good corporate governance”.
The changes forms part of the Tax Administration Reform approved by Cabinet and are concentrated on the three main areas of: promoting voluntary compliance; improving audit and collection enforcement; and simplifying customs procedures.
However the Minister noted that the changes were given momentum because of the Government’s commitment to good governance, which harmonises with the requirement of multilateral agencies for fiscal discipline.
“While some progress had been recorded the reforms have focused on specific initiatives rather than on an overall revenue administration reform strategy. The progress on critical aspects, such as the adoption of comprehensive programmes and establishment of a governance structure to manage their implementation was slow and tedious. Clearly the existing structure is a major impediment to effective modernization. Non-compliance with domestic tax obligations remains high,” he noted.
Within recent weeks, Fiscal Services Limited the custodian of the country’s tax data and with responsibility for the development and maintenance supporting ICT infrastructure was strengthened and provided with effective leadership. The Revenue Protection Department headed by new Principal Director, Major Johanna Lewin is being strengthened while Pamella Folkes has been appointed Chief Technical Director to drive the process at the Financial Investigation Division.