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JIS News

With less than two months until the end of the 2005/2006 fiscal year, taxpayers are busy putting the finishing touches on their books to compile and file their annual income tax returns before the March 15 deadline.
As the Tax Administration redoubles its efforts to get taxpayers to file their payments early and avoid the last minute rush, Acting Director General of Tax Administration, Vinette Keene has said that her office was devising new ways to make the process more simple and easier.
Mrs. Keene, who spoke to JIS News at a recent Think Tank, explained that, “there is the option of the e-payment system, which is online but of course the returns cannot be filed online, so persons will still have to go to any of the 28 Inland Revenue Department (IRD) offices across the island. We are trying to arrange a more efficient system where persons paying online do not have to join lines in order to leave those returns”.
She acknowledged that, “the long lines in the tax offices, that is a big deterrent and we recognize it and we are seeking to create improvements because we want the take up on the online payment portal to be much more. People need to recognize they do not have to go anywhere as they can stay right at home and pay their taxes.”
For those persons who use the e-payment system, Mrs. Keene said, “we are hoping to have a drop box in the large collectorates, which will allow those persons some evidence that they have in fact filed returns. For persons, who are preparing these returns, we have a 1-888-TAX-HELP or 1-888-829-4357 number and our website www.jamaicatax.gov.jm.”
Jamaica operates a self-assessment system and as such, self employed persons, companies and businesses are required to submit an annual income tax return, which shows income earned and tax payable to the government.
Income tax should be paid quarterly to the Collector of Taxes and Inland Revenue Department (IRD) by the 15th day in March, June, September, and December. Return forms and the relevant schedules are available at any of the tax collectorates or online.
Mrs. Keene noted that persons, who receive an income of over $144,768 in the last year, are expected to file returns. These can be submitted to any tax office island wide.
Encouraging businesses and taxable persons to file returns, Mrs. Keene informed that non-compliant companies and persons were not eligible for a Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC), which is necessary to clear goods at Customs or to obtain a government contract. “Failure to file income and general consumption tax returns can lead to a $10,000 fine or 12 months imprisonment,” she further warned.
Meanwhile, as part of the Tax Administration’s efforts to encourage tax compliance, provisional tax centres will be set up across the country in churches, police stations and tax offices, where officers from the IRD will provide assistance to the public in compiling and filing income tax returns free of cost.
“We are hoping to have kiosks where persons can go in and log on if they do not have access in the tax offices or in other locations that may become available, perhaps the post offices and so on,” Mrs. Keene informed.
Additionally, the department has introduced its latest compliance model, an initiative with a three-pronged approach, which is intended to increase compliance through improved service delivery, improved education and information and increased enforcement.
Mrs. Keene noted that, “people sometimes do not comply because they do not know the requirements and so we are seeking to improve that service”.
She highlighted that the Tax Administration was also stepping up its publicity campaign to remind taxpayers about their obligation.
“I believe that we need to increase our visibility in the marketplace because when you don’t talk about taxes, people don’t see taxes in their faces every day. it is one of those things that we would rather forget and so we are trying to improve the visibility of Tax Administration to keep it in the forefront of people’s minds,” Mrs. Keene said.
She pointed out that paying taxes form part of the civic responsibility of citizens. “Jamaica has a voluntary compliance system, what this means is that it is incumbent on each of us to try to determine our tax responsibilities and to fulfill them without the Tax Administration having to come after us.”