The Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) could soon be turning up the heat on delinquent landowners and other taxpayers who refuse to make good on their tax payments.
In fact, Acting Revenue Commissioner Wayne Forde said the revenue collection agency would be employing what could be seen as some “stringent” measures to get the non-compliant taxpayers to fulfill their obligation.
“We will be pursuing. We are adopting some tax collection measures. Some may be a bit stringent for the populace, but they are coming,” Forde warned.
“As matter of fact, in very short order we will be rolling out another measure of collecting arrears. And these arrears are not only for land tax, [they are] arrears throughout the sphere of the Barbados Revenue Authority,” he told journalists on Monday.
He made the disclosure during a brief ceremony to launch a new option for land tax payments, through a partnership between the BRA and Cave Shepherd Card Services. The new payment method allows taxpayers to use the send/receive feature on their Cave Shepherd App to make their land tax payments when they become due.
Land tax demand notices are sent out annually and the deadline for land tax payment is at the end of the Government’s financial year, March 31 each year.
Failure to meet the deadline will incur a penalty of five per cent of the unpaid tax, plus interest calculated at the rate of one per cent per month on the principal and penalty. The new measures will be implemented by March 31.
Forde said the compliance rate on land tax payments now stands at 65 per cent.
While he was not immediately able to say how much money was owed in land tax arrears and for what years, Forde said: “I can safely say that they owe more than we owe them.”
“In a lot of cases we have been
hearing about the amount of money the Barbados Revenue Authority owes to the populace in refunds, but we do not hear about the amount of money the populace owe the Barbados Revenue Authority,” he said.
Hinting that another auction could be on the cards, he said: “Land tax is one that is easier in that for every account there is a physical property that if you do not pay within 60 days after the end of financial year the authority has the right to put it up for public auction.”
Last December, the BRA announced that it would be auctioning 24 properties on which approximately $3.4 million was owed in outstanding taxes.
These included vacant lots and properties with structures and buildings. The property owners have until the day of the planned sale to reclaim their property by making an arrangement to pay or coming up with the arrears.
According to Forde since the announcements late last year most of the defaulters have gone into the BRA office and made arrangements to pay.
“It appears that some people need a little push. In the coming months you will see an increased effort and more properties will be put up for sale,” he promised.
The BRA has extended the waiver on penalty and interest in its tax amnesty programme several times over the past two years, for those with monies owed for the period between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2017.
Pointing out that an amnesty was still in place, Forde said: “If I can use this medium to beseech persons to take advantage of that. If you come in to me it is better than I have to go for you.”
“Although tax collectors throughout history have been given a bad rap, we are not ogres. We appreciate that sometimes people may not have the wherewithal to pay at one time. But if you come in and speak to us we will make arrangements to clear out your obligations. If we don’t hear anything from you and we have to go after you, which we will be doing in very short order, then the consequences may be a bit more dire,” he explained.
Insisting that he was not pleased with the rate of take up of the amnesty over the years, Forde said too many people were being lulled into a false sense of security that if they miss one reprieve another would be right around the corner.
“Over the last couple of years there have been a number of amnesties. So people would just wait for the next amnesty. They may be waiting for long time for the next amnesty now. The payment plan will still be there but the amnesty may not be coming,” he warned.
The tax revenue official was hesitant to give a break down of the demographic that was most likely to default on their payments, but he pointed out that the elderly were more likely to pay up early.
“Over the years I find with property the persons who are more compliant are the old people and they are the first persons who come to pay. When we issue a bill and especially the older people who expect a bill to be issued around October and we decide that it will be issued in November we usually in October get inundated with calls that they have not seen their land tax (bill),” he explained.