As the April 30 deadline for filing in their 2017 Income Tax Returns arrived, Barbadians today openly vented their frustration over the delay by Government in settling their outstanding income tax returns over the past three years.
From as early as seven this morning, long lines were visible outside the Barbados Revenue Authority’s (BRA) head office in The City, with many of those who were queued expressing their unhappiness about the overall lateness of payments.
“To me this filing is a waste of time,” complained taxpayer Andrew Walker, adding that “I was filing for three years now and I haven’t received one red cent from the Government”.
While pointing the accusing finger at the incumbent Freundel Stuart administration, he also signalled that this would be his last year of fulfilling the statutory requirements.
“It is really nonsense that we are here doing today because under this current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government we got back no money,” he said, while insisting that “today is my last. I am not filing anymore”.
Walker also took issue with the reasons given by Government for not meeting the outstanding payments, questioning: “If the Government claim that it doesn’t have any money, why on God’s earth would politicians give back themselves their ten per cent? I would like the Prime Minister to answer that question,” he said, while making reference to the recent restoration by Government of a pay cut that was instituted at the height of the country’s austerity programme.
His comments also follow the recent announcement made by Revenue Commissioner Margaret Sivers that BRA had received not one, but two cash injections 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) earlier this month on the eve of the Prime Minister’s election date announcement, Sivers revealed that the authority received close to $5 million, adding that a second injection of an undisclosed sum was also made into BRA.
At the time, she had also sought to assure Barbadians that every effort was being made to process the late payments relative to 2014, with the goal of completing them by month-end.
However, as he stood in line outside the Treasury Building, another taxpayer, Ivan Haynes, told Barbados TODAY the wait for tax returns has proven to be “overbearing”.
“I feel this is too long now that Bajans have to wait to get back income tax. I can remember years ago we never waited so long. Honestly it is overbearing for persons,” he stressed, adding that “I don’t know how the rest [other taxpayers] feel, but I think most of the people here could be doing something else right now with their time”.
Haynes also revealed that “I have a friend who hasn’t got back her income tax since 2014 and this is 2018.
“You think that is fair?” he asked, while complaining that the actual filing process “seems to be really slow as well.
“I doesn’t seem that nobody is really checking,” he said in reference to today’s wait which was for those taxpayers who were unable to complete the process online.
With general elections due here on May 24, Haynes also suggested that “which ever party forms the next Government needs to look into this so that it can be a faster process”.
However, Keisha Bovell’s biggest grouse was not with BRA, but local employers who she suggested should be the ones slapped with the $500 fine for not filing tax returns for their employees.
“Don’t be telling your employees, ‘yes I am going to file for you’ and then don’t do it,” she said, explaining that “I went to check on my friend and I found out that the person has not been filed for five years.
“All the employer has been saying is that he went overboard all the time and he is not filing. [But] what is sad is that he [the employee] would get fine $500 if you have not done it, so imagine not filing since 2013 and there is no information there.
“I think this needs to be cracked down on. I think the employer should be fined for it. It is really unfair that they are going to tell you that you need to file when the employer isn’t putting the T5 slip on the system. If they don’t file, you don’t get any money and still at the same time if they don’t do it, you will have to pay the $500. They need to fine the employers rather than the employees,” she stressed.
However, with elections due here in a matter of weeks, there is still no indication from Government as to how it intends to settle income years 2015 and 2016 even though Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had earlier 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 had 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.