As the Government continues to pay tax refunds owed to individuals and businesses, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is advising the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) not to be afraid to “go after” tax defaulters.
Sinckler said between January and February of this year, Government paid out approximately $25 million in refunds.
As he led off debate on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2016/2017 in Parliament this morning, he revealed that about $12 million was paid out in corporation tax refunds, just over $3 million in income tax returns and over $9 million in value added tax (VAT) returns within the two-month period.
Sinckler also noted that early last year Government had established a special sub-committee to look at its cash flow and had mandated it to focus on the paying down arrears.
“I am happy to report this morning that between April 2015 and February 2016, the Barbados Revenue Authority has paid a total of $175 million in refunds broken down as follows: income tax, $75 million in returns; corporation tax, $34 million; and value added tax refunds, $70 million [which amounts to] $175 million in less than a year,” reported Sinckler.
He did not specify what portion of the payments were for income year 2013 or 2014.
However, he said a recent estimate showed that of the taxes owed to Government, $500 million were less than five-years-old.
“If we were to be able to collect half of that $500 million we wouldn’t be having some of these issues. So we are saying that people have to play their part in helping us to deal with these problems,” said Sinckler.
“We can’t manage a country if the taxes that we want do not come into the country. If the revenue is not coming in we can’t provide all these services that people want – hospital, Transport Board, NCC [National Conservation Commission]. We simply can’t do it. So we need people to be able to pay their taxes,” he said.
Sinckler added, “of course I can’t instruct the Barbados Revenue Authority but I can only advise them, . . . with good commonsense and of course polite aggressiveness, to go after the taxes which are owed and due to the Government”.
Still addressing the issue of arrears, Sinckler also gave the assurance that as more money became available to Government it would continue to pay its debts, including monies owed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, as well as the Transport Board.
He acknowledged that while progress was being made there was still “more to pay”, explaining that the monies currently being used to pay arrears was from the Treasury’s cash flow. He added that the monies form the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) had not yet been transferred into the Consolidated Fund.
“So as the cash flow situation improves we are beginning to meet our commitments, which is evidence again that the fiscal programme is working, because it means that we have money available to do things,” said Sinckler.