by Kathyann Husbands
In today’s fast-paced world, many Barbadians have grown accustomed to carrying out business transactions from the comfort of their homes or offices. Whether filing taxes online or accessing financial information, they enjoy the convenience of conducting business “at the click of a mouse”.
With the recent launch of Government’s e-payment service, eZpay, citizens will now have the additional option of paying their land tax bills online.
Developed by the Data Processing Department in conjunction with iPay Inc., the eZpay system will allow persons to log on to Barbados’ Integrated Government Portal and use electronic interactive channels and other information communication technology infrastructure to pay for various Government services.
Individuals can access the service from anywhere via the Internet, using the device of their choice – laptop computers, Blackberrys, iPhones and tablets such as the iPad – at no cost to the user.
In his address at the launch, Commissioner of Land Tax, Wayne Forde, whose department is the first to utilise the facility, stated that the eZpay service had allayed one of his department’s greatest concerns – how to create safe, convenient and comfortable surroundings in which persons could conduct business.
“With this new system, we have now provided another option whereby the general public can make payments in a timely manner and without the hassle of standing in line to do so. These payments can be made from the comfort of their own home or any place with an Internet connection.
“In developing this system, our primary concerns were that the payments are safe and secure and there is no divulging of information to unauthorised persons and the process is speedy and beneficial to all parties. We are convinced that these particulars have been addressed,” he added.
The commissioner explained that the taxpayer would be able to monitor, at his or her own discretion, the status of his accounts and would be able to structure payments as he or she saw fit. Persons would be able to view their tax bill immediately, and the waiting period for the issuance of tax clearance certificates would be drastically reduced, since the funds are cleared within 48 hours.
“Overseas taxpayers will not have to be concerned about posting cheques back to the department, as long as they operate an account at a local bank, and these taxpayers will not have to depend on the foreign postal services to find out their tax liability,” he added.
In addition, Forde addressed the “high incidence” of dishonoured cheques being issued to the Land Tax Department.
“Under Section 34 of the Land Tax Act Cap 78A, the Commissioner of Land Tax is given the power of sale. This is an option that is taken with great reservation and after long consideration, but it is one that we will not fail to exercise where we are constantly faced with this dilemma. Those persons who have issued dishonoured cheques to the department and who have refused to rectify the situation will be subject to having their properties being offered for sale to recover the funds.”
The official stressed that while his department had not discontinued the practice of accepting cheques as a legitimate method of payment, the agency however reserved the right not to issue a tax clearance certificate until the funds had cleared.
“In May 2009, we had implemented a waiting period on the issuance of tax clearance certificates, where the payments have been made by cheque. We have had to reinforce our regulations recently in order to prevent the situation [of dishonoured cheques] from getting out of hand,” he said.
Forde pointed out that the implementation of eZpay could result in a tremendous savings to the country as a whole.
“It will significantly reduce the cost of the printing of bills and notices and the cost of postage incurred in mailing out the bills, especially to overseas addresses… For the last financial year we would have posted in excess of 10,600 tax bills to overseas property owners,” he added.
So, as the eZpay online system joins credit and debit cards, certified cheques and cash as an option for those persons paying land tax bills, log on to the BIG Portal at www.gov.bb to register. Don’t wait in line. Save time and pay online!