Independent Senator Monique Taitt is suggesting that Government incurs a penalty for failing to pay for services or pay income tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) and Corporation tax refunds within a stipulated time.
Taitt, who was addressing the Upper House today as she contributed to debate on the Public Finance Management Bill, said it would only be fair for the government to be penalized just as individuals and companies were if they failed to meet their obligations to Government.
“What are the penalties for the government failing to repay or remit if they don’t take on the suggestion of interest and penalties? Are you calling upon individuals to have to go to court, which is an additional cost, or at the end of the day is it just lip service where you got to wait anyway because it is Government? I am just asking these questions because to me public finance is not only revenue generation it is also for the people. It is also ensuring that people are not crippled, because an asset rich cash poor company is a recipe for disaster,” said Taitt.
She said it was about time the government addressed the issue of income tax, VAT and corporation tax refunds, adding that the new Bill should make provision for Government to be held responsible.
She insisted that while Government seemed to have an “air-tight, organized and structured piece of legislation in place to deal with the ills of public finance management” it should also ensure that “the people for whom this Bill has been devised” also benefit.
“I have a client who told me they are owed over $60,000 in VAT returns, $30,000 of which is over a year old. So I am just querying and hoping that with this new Public Finance Management Bill that the proper system of accounts of all money received and paid by the government will speak to things like income tax returns, VAT returns, when you do a job for the Government,” she said.
“I am hoping that with the advent of this Bill that those things will be properly managed and if they are not, just as how if you don’t pay your land tax on time or income tax on time there are interest and penalties, will the government by virtue of having all of this going on, by allowing persons to whom they owe either remittances or refunds, allow those persons to benefit from interest and penalties as well?” she asked.
Saying she hoped it would not take up to a year for the government to pay what it owed, Taitt also questioned what mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that the proposed legislation was effective.
“It cannot be for example, that when you go on the BRA (Barbados Revenue Authority) website they are telling you that TAMIS is down and they apologize for any inconvenience caused and they are trying to get their technical people to deal with it. So, there are VAT returns that as far as I am aware, are yet to be filed because they can’t get on to TAMIS or whatever system deals with VAT. If you are the agency to collect, you should be running effectively. So I am hoping that all the bells and whistles in this piece of legislation will also deal with the necessary infrastructure to allow it to work, if not this is all just rhetoric,” she explained.
Taitt also questioned why the government did not allow for the settling of its debt by setting off what it owed individuals and businesses against what it owed by them.
“That has always been a puzzle to me why set-offs are not happening at BRA,” said Taitt, “so that is another query I have as it relates to the public finance management of the country and the common sense of it all. You pay to get back instead of set-off?” she said.