A local accountant of more than two decades experience has concluded that the creation of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) has not made it any easier to do business with the revenue collection agency.
In fact, Robert Homer, managing director of RMH Financial Consultants, told Barbados TODAY in a recent interview that some processes seemed to have worsened.
The BRA, which was established April last year, is a central revenue collecting agency. It was formed from the merger of the island’s various tax collecting agencies, including the Land Tax Department, the Value Added Tax (VAT) Office, Inland Revenue Department and the Licensing Authority. The Customs and Excise Department is also being absorbed into the new agency.
“As it relates to BRA one would have thought that with the introduction of the merger between these Government departments that it should have brought some ease of operation to the people that they serve. But it has made things more complicated for the people that they serve, the Barbadian public. Before BRA it was easier for me to get clearances. With BRA the process has become more tedious,” said Homer.
Although acknowledging that the introduction of the BRA was “actually a good thing for Barbados” because it has the ability to identify “and catch” a lot of companies that were filing VAT but not corporation taxes, Homer complained that it was unfair for Government to owe corporations VAT returns for long periods but add interest to the corporation taxes owed to Government.
“That is the part that I find really despicable. How can you tell me that you are now one organization, you owe me money for VAT and I owe you money for corporation tax, but you owe me the money for VAT longer than I owe you the money for corporation tax. Yet you want to tell me if I don’t pay the corporation tax the computer will add on interest on a daily basis, but you don’t tell me about the interest you [should] owe me from the VAT refund because you owe
me more than two years. So all these things are unfair,” explained Homer.
“We want to level the playing field to make things fair. Yes, I believe if people owe taxes they should pay, but I believe that if the Government equally owes a refund they should pay too,” he said, acknowledging that he was aware of the financial challenges facing the Freundel Stuart administration.
The financial consultant said he tried raising the matter with the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) but was told it was a matter to be raised with Government.
RMH Financial Consultants offers a range of services including the filing of taxes for individuals and corporations and training in a number of accounting services, including compliance management.
Homer referred to the Factoring programme, also known as the Trade Receivables Liquidity Programme, as tedious. This programme allows small and micro businesses which provide services to Government ministries or departments to factor in any VAT refund owed to them.
“You have to go and register with another organization to get this done and send in all this paper work. It is ridiculous,” he said.
Homer said he did not believe the BRA system was yet integrated and he was hoping he could be able to offer some solutions, pointing out that he believed the current system was contributing to a “slowdown” of business in some cases.
“You would have thought that when they merged these things might have been a little easier but some things have gotten a little harder for some reason. The implementation of it is where I think they need to spend a little bit more time trying to figure out who to put where,” suggested Homer.
He said another challenge some small business operators faced was getting approval for small business status, pointing out that while some would receive it in as little as three months, he had two clients who were waiting for over five years, a period that preceded the introduction of the BRA.
Asked if it was a case where all the information was not submitted, Homer said, “they had all the information they wanted. The clearances expired. We gave them fresh clearances [and] we gave them fresh financial statements. We gave them everything they needed. And it is now five years. August gone is now five years. So when will they get their act together?”
BRA offers a number of services by internet “that will be fast, convenient, uncomplicated, free, safe and secure,” the agency said on its website.