Heat on tax dodgers

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Jamaica Observer
Balford Henry!

Tax Fraud

FINANCE Minister Peter Phillips yesterday blamed tax avoidance and evasion as major contributors to Jamaica's debt problems.

"...I daresay, and if we are to be honest, it is the failure to support the revenues on the part of so many persons, that is at least, in part, accountable for the extent of the debt that has built up over the years," Dr Phillips told the House of Representatives.

He said that, in the absence of adequate revenues to meet expenditure expected by the population, there has been an easy recourse to borrow over the years.

Dr Phillips was closing the debate on two new, far-reaching measures aimed at improving tax collection and addressing tax avoidance and evasion, which were passed in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The measures are included in the Tax Penalties (Harmonisation) Act 2014, which amends the Education Tax Act and the Income Tax Act, to increase penalties under both Acts that were considered inadequate; and the Tax Collection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which amends the Income Tax Act, the Revenue Administration Act, and the Tax Collection Act.

Opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, criticised the Government for debating the Bills a week and a day after they were tabled in the House of Representatives. He said that the right procedure would have been to send them to a joint select committee of Parliament, which would have allowed stakeholders to make submissions.

"All of this time honoured tradition is being thrown out on the altar of the dictates of our new master, the IMF, and we must hurry and pass the laws in time for the next test to be passed," the Opposition spokesman said.

But Dr Phillips countered that the new provisions, which give the commissioner general and the collector of customs additional powers to impose interest charges, publish the names and amounts owed by debtors, and take out interest and other payments prior to reducing the principal owed on taxes, must be seen in context.

He said, while there were some 82,000 companies listed at the Companies Office of Jamaica, and 62,000 listed as filing, only 18,500 companies were registered for corporate income tax with Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ)

"That's the environment in which are operating," Phillips said.