Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley wants an overhaul of the sweeping powers of ministers to grant tax exemptions and waivers.
The practice of doling out concessions or tax-write offs is cutting into Government’s revenues, he told lawmakers in Parliament today.
While the Minister of Finance approves a tax waiver, various Government Ministers have, over the years, made requests for waivers and duties on various items across a range of sectors.
“I am simply suggesting that we need to look perhaps again at the business of the ministerial discretion, the ministerial power that allows for exemption and waivers at will to persons to whom ministerial offices might be connected,” he said.
Atherley suggested that there should be some form of limitation on the scope oll, as he added to the debate on the Income Tax Amendment and Validation Bill in Parliament on Tuesday,
Pointing to the recent reduction in the corporation tax rate from 30 per cent to between one per cent and 5.5 per cent, Atherley said, “I am suggesting that if that [tax cut] underperforms because of a ministerial discretion that allows for waivers and exemptions without circumscription, then we have a problem.”
He continued: “That is the Barbadian reality to which I am pointing and the very Government that sits in office today has also been loud in castigation of concessions given especially in the tourism sector to certain entities and to some construction entities as well.
“If all of this is true and that is the reality, and that ministerial discretion is being either unwisely exercised or abusively exercised then we have a case for looking again at this business of ministerial discretion.”
But the St Michael West MP argued that there were too many stories, especially in recent days, of vehicles coming into the island and individuals not paying “the appropriate duties” because of “ministerial generosity”.
“I am not personally privy to having these types of documents in my hand but those who follow trucks religiously and are in a position to see when the documents fall off the backs of these vehicles will tell you. We have heard these stories.
“I do not know the registration numbers on these vehicles, all I am hearing is that we have had in recent times, instances of persons who drive these vehicles on our streets, having had the benefits of ministerial generosity,” he said.