A Government minister wants the island’s two main revenue collection agencies to go after self-employed professionals who willfully avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson today suggested that a number of such professionals, particularly lawyers linked to the ousted Democratic Labour Party, were dodging taxes and contributions to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), and he implored the two state agencies to examine their books to force them to comply.
“I would wish to reiterate . . . in terms of [BRA] officers and NIS officers being more diligent in terms of going to self-employed persons and professionals and looking at their books. They have that authority under the law. The impression I get is that they do not use that legal authority as much as they should,” Hinkson told his parliamentary colleagues during debate on the amendment to the Barbados Revenue Authority Act.
The amended removes the clause which required those seeking to obtain a tax clearance certificate to facilitate a conveyance of land, to pay all taxes, interest and penalties accrued under the Land Tax Act, Cap 78A.
Emphasizing the need for everyone who qualifies to pay taxes, Hinkson said those who dodged taxes were depriving the country of much needed revenue.
And without pointing fingers at anyone in particular, the minister suggested there were several lawyers partial to the last administration who were “beneficiaries of the fatted calf” who might not have paid their taxes.
“The Barbados Revenue Authority may very well have a very fertile territory in going and examining the books of some of these beneficiaries of the fatted calf under the last Government. These attorneys-at-law who got exorbitant legal fees, charging six, and eight and ten times what they should have charged. That is fertile territory. Go and examine their books . . . the VAT [Value Added Tax] too, whether they have paid the requisite amount of taxes.
“So BRA needs to do its job in terms of collecting taxes from those persons who are beneficiaries of the fatted calf . . . dished out by the Democratic Labour Party among its members, supporters, shareholders to the detriment of the people of Barbados and we will certainly support BRA in that effort,” he said.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Dale Marshall made a similar call, while pointing out that the Income tax Act made provision for the BRA to enforce a judgment for taxes against self-employed individuals by presenting a memorandum at the high court registry.
Stating that the BRA had no excuse to allow delinquent self-employed individuals get off scot-free, the attorney-at-law pointed out that once a judgment had been registered there were several methods of enforcing it.
“I would urge the Minister in the Ministry of Finance [Ryan Straughn] to have a discussion with the BRA about how they can use the law to try to go after taxes, try to go after people . . . who do not pay, and they can be identified. You sort of know them by the car they drive, that is a good place to start, and the house that they live in and the kind of lifestyle they enjoy,” Marshall explained.
While lauding the Barbados Labour Party administration for the amendment to the Act, Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley urged Government to go after the few “notoriously delinquent” private sector operators who avoided paying their taxes.
“My understanding is that when it comes to the avoidance of tax obligations there are a notoriously delinquent few in the business community of Barbados who believe that they have a right to conduct themselves in the way that they do. So while the Government moves with haste today to repeal this measure in an effort to facilitate business and to provide an environment in which growth can be spurred, I believe the Government should see it equally as it responsibility to look into that mischief,” he said.