On the eve of general elections, Barbadian taxpayers are to have more cash in their pockets.
The Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) today announced that for the second time this week it has received a cash injection from the Treasury to allow it to make further inroads into paying Barbadians their outstanding 2014 tax refunds.
In a statement released by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), BRA’s Revenue Commissioner Margaret Sivers revealed that the authority received close to $5 million earlier in the week. However, she did not say exactly how much funding constituted the second injection but assured that every effort was being made to process the payments relative to 2014, with the goal of completing them by month-end.
The revenue commissioner also said that while her institution was committed to fair tax administration, it had been constrained over the past three and a half years in paying refunds owed.
“We are very pleased to have received these funds from the Treasury Department as we have a responsibility to ensure that monies owed to taxpayers are paid. We are contacted daily by persons inquiring when they will receive their refunds and have been pained at not being able to give them any assurance that they would receive it within a certain period.
“I also believe some persons are not aware that by law, when the BRA collects taxes, we are mandated to deposit all collections into the Consolidated Fund. We then inform the Accountant General of the funds we need in order to pay tax refunds and as such, we do not have any control over the timing of the receipt of those necessary funds,” she said.
Sivers did not give any indication of how many tax refunds were outstanding for 2014, but indicated that payments would be made on a first filed, first served basis, with the longest outstanding refunds being paid first.
With elections due here by the first week in June, she further explained that after disbursement of the 2014 refunds is completed, BRA officers will direct their efforts to income years 2015 and 2016, in so far as the necessary funding is available.
Earlier this year, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said he had given a directive to officials associated with the processing of tax refunds to quickly put systems in place in order to ensure residents and businesses got what was due to them “as soon as possible”.
Stating that it was not fair to taxpayers to file their taxes and not get back their refunds, Sinckler said while it was a “reasonable conclusion” for individuals and businesses to say they only heard from the BRA “loudly when they want payment but they are very silent when they have to pay out”, it was also not fair to cast blame on the revenue collection agency.
“I am not going to blame it on the accountant general because he cannot pay what he doesn’t have. So we have to find a way to break that deadlock, that stalemate, and I have therefore instructed the Ministry of Finance working with the Central Bank, to put in place a system as quickly as possible to ensure that we can get the flow of the funds back to persons in Barbados – give businesses their VAT (Value Added Tax) and corporation tax and individuals their tax refunds – and do so in a responsible way that does not cause either disruption to the economy or damage to the financial system,” Sinckler had stated at the time.
“Sometimes the system gets clogged and I believe it is incumbent on the administration, through the Ministry of Finance and the other entities [such as] the cash flow committee, the Central Bank and others, to find an appropriate and quick solution to the backlog of tax refunds that we have in Barbados because it is affecting the integrity of the Barbados Revenue Authority,” he added back in February while addressing a business stakeholder seminar at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre where BRA introduced a new Tax Administration Management Information System.