Senator Caswell Franklyn believes those companies which owe Government large sums of unpaid Value Added Tax should face criminal prosecution.
As debate on the Appropriation Bill moved to the Upper Chamber today, the lawmaker said those who collected VAT as an agent of Government but did not hand it over were essentially stealing from the Crown and should face criminal charge.
Senator Caswell said: “It is a crime. The [Director of Public Prosecutions] can choose not to prosecute. Stealing VAT is a crime in this country that should be prosecuted. I don’t know who is being protected or who is being hidden. I don’t want to guess. But those people need to come before the courts and face a judge or magistrate and be sentenced for their crime. The VAT that you collect is not yours. I will not rest when people are stealing and getting away with it.”
The trade unionist said the VAT funds owed to Government could be put to better use. He then chastised the Prime Minister for forgiving defaulters.
He told the Senate: “We are suffering by people not paying the relevant taxes. You fail to collect the taxes from them and you also write off the taxes that they owe… people who owe taxes for years. We met in here in December to write off taxes to benefit the people who should be in jail for not paying taxes. Now we are proposing also to write off the VAT from 1996 to 2000 for people who actually stole it.
“Government is giving away money that is not theirs to give away. This elitist Government that we have elected that said ‘Gimmuh de vote and watch muh’… well the people are watching and they don’t like what they are seeing . . . . Stop thinking about friends and family and look out for the best interest of this country.”
Senator Franklyn told the Upper House that while he understood that some businesses are facing financial challenges and may not be able to pay salary and income tax, VAT was in a different category.
He added: “If you are in business you may not make enough money to pay the salaries and the taxes. However, VAT is money you actually receive. So when you get it pay it over. When you collect VAT you are doing so as an agent of Government and when you refuse to pay that money, you are depriving the country… because you are stealing the money. And then the Government would decide to forgive thieves. The Government has no authority to forgive thieves.”