Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Senator Wilfred Abrahams is accusing Government of “kicking Barbadians while they are down” by persisting with an amendment to the Act governing the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).
The amendment, opposed by the Barbados Bar Association, demands that individuals and corporations be fully paid up to all branches of the state before obtaining a tax clearance certificate.
Addressing the Upper House this morning, Abrahams argued that the amendment was draconian and its dragnet approach to revenue collection was more likely to impact citizens down on their luck, rather than those with means who are seeking to avoid paying taxes.
“I heard it said in another place that the big people dodging taxes, that the lawyers and the big doctors trying not to pay taxes. This does not affect lawyers, doctors and big companies only, but it affects every single Barbadian who owns a piece of the rock,” Abrahams said.
The BLP legislator charged that Barbadians facing tough economic times were being forced to sell their lands as means of getting out of debt, therefore, it was unconscionable to demand that they first settle all outstanding taxes owed to the state – land-affiliated or otherwise – before obtaining the certificate.
According to the amendment, those wishing to obtain a tax clearance certificate to facilitate a conveyance of land, must pay all tax, interest and penalties accrued under the Land Tax Act, Cap. 78A.
People are also required to repay all input taxes in accordance with Section 48(4) of the Value Added Tax Act, Cap. 87 where such tax was previously allowed under Section 46(2) of that Act.
Applicants who may not have the means to settle their arrears in full have the option of paying ten per cent of the taxes, interest and penalties which have accrued under the other taxing Acts, and enter into an agreement with the BRA to make scheduled payments to liquidate the sums owed under those pieces of legislation.
“Most Barbadians hold their piece of the rock and guard it jealously. Buying land in Barbados is the single greatest investment that would be made by any Barbadian during their lifetime. So when a Barbadian parts with their land unless it is to obtain a benefit, chances are it is as a last resort to try to settle debts,” Abrahams contended.
“They have run out of credit, the bank account is dry, they already cash in the insurance policy and you now have nothing else but the piece of the rock that probably came down from your father or grandfather. Now before you sell that you have to clear off everything or enter into an arrangement. The reason you are selling is because you are in debt. It is penny wise and a pound foolish,” he stressed.
The attorney-at-law added that lending institutions may end up having to pay off their defaulters’ debts to the state before being able sell land held as collateral.
However, in a passionate defence of the amendment, Democratic Labour Party Senator Jepter Ince chided those who allowed their debt to the state to reach uncontrollable levels.
“Sometimes we sit and wait until the lion gets at our door then to find excuses, and we like to use the theory of the poor man when it suits us. If you have taxes to pay, then pay your taxes. Sometimes we know early that we cannot meet the bill this month but we sit around and we wait until something happens,” said Ince, who claimed to have utilized payment plans to settle his debt to the taxman.