Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has issued a stern warning to individuals and companies guilty of failing to pay their fair share of taxes that their days are numbered.
Sinckler could not immediately say how many defaulters there were, or how much was owed to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), but he said it was a “substantial” amount.
He conceded that some of the debt preceded the establishment of the BRA in 2014 and would likely be written off, adding that the revenue agency was working on a formula.
“That is the process they are going through now. As they do their various audits and reviews they are looking to see from which year they can say ‘this is the year that we will just use as the baseline and anything that falls behind that, we will waive and anything going forward we will go after’. So that is what they are working on and I presume they will come up with something very shortly,” said Sinckler.
He promised that the tax collection agency would be given more power to go after those guilty of not paying their fair share of taxes and that it was being strengthened with highly skilled staff, as well as more manpower.
“We are going to be strengthening the laws, which we are moving to do, and put it on a [stronger] footing now . . . I know there is going to be resistance, a lot of resistance,” said Sinckler, pointing out that there were those who did not even bother to file their returns.
Singling out professionals, Sinckler said there were some who believed that they should not pay taxes, while others simply refused to pay. But he warned that “soon enough it will all come out, how many are not paying”.
He also hinted at legislative and procedural changes to make it easier to go after defaulters and to get them to pay.
“If the current legislation or the current law does not take care of that, if the court system is not moving fast enough to prosecute people when they are taken there then we have to find other methods to ensure that people pay their fair share.”
However, the Minister refused to be drawn into discussion on when the delinquents could expect an announcement on the measures that would be taken against them, insisting he had no authority to instruct the BRA and that it was entirely up to the state agency.
Nevertheless, he said he did not intend for the agency to name and shame anyone in its attempt to get them to file and pay their taxes.
“Because that is when I think it deteriorates, when you got to be publishing somebody’s name in the paper that they didn’t pay tax. You don’t want to get to that stage. And I know the agencies have been very restrained. I know the Land Tax Department has been restrained in terms of selling people’s properties, but why do you want to force people into the position where they have to do that when you can just go and comply? Just comply, file.”
And he suggested that those who had difficulty meeting the payments should meet with BRA officials and work out a payment plan.