Shaw says new tax measures threaten constitutional rights, business confidence

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Opposition spokesman on finance and planning, Audley Shaw, says that the government may be trampling upon the constitutional rights of Jamaicans, by introducing new tax collection measures in two Bills passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

“In our mad rush to impose these enhanced, if not draconian, powers, is this government prepared to trample upon the constitutional rights of the citizens of Jamaica in order to achieve this objective? It appears so,” Shaw told the House of Representatives during the debate on Wednesday.

Shaw also warned that “draconian” measure, to be introduced under one of the Bills, the Tax Collection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, could lead to a further erosion of business confidence.

“It is our view that more draconian tax legislation, as proposed in the Miscellaneous Provisions Act, on top of the raft of awesome powers that already exists, will likely lead to a further erosion of business confidence, which is an issue right now,” he said.

“The question is: do we really need enhanced tax powers, or do we need enhanced administrative capabilities to improve tax collection?” The opposition spokesman asked during his contribution to the debate. “That’s an issue that has to be discussed. It was an issue when I was the Minister, it remains an issue today: One is the law, the other is administering the law.”

“And so, the first question that has to be asked is whether we have adequately researched the administrative capabilities and necessities within the context of the existing legislation, which is not short of powers.: Awesome (powers) too, that already exists,” he stated.

“I will not take the time to enumerate for this Honourable House the raft of existing powers of search and seizure that is already available to the tax department of this country. But, we know that there are many, many power of search and seizure, including as the minister said, the power of garnishment which, when he (the minister of finance) mentioned garnishment under the Miscellaneous Act,  he mentioned that it was something that already exists,” he said.