The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has announced that tax revenues for this year have risen by almost $8B above the $79B collected in 2008.
This would represent a slight increase from the $86.4B that government was projecting to collect this year.
According to a release from the Commissioner-General of GRA, Khurshid Sattaur, this was despite a challenging year where the image of the entity was hit by a $300 million internal fraud by staffers.
Describing 2009 as incredible in terms of revenue collection and the progress made toward the development of a modern, functional tax organization, Sattaur said that while 2008 was a fairly successful one, 2009 revenue performance has been significantly better with a more that 10% improvement over the previous year.
“This has resulted in the Revenue Agency surpassing the 2009 revenue collection estimates of $86.4B… GRA has set a new record in revenue collection despite many challenges. Some sections of the private sector continue to employ tax evasion practices such as under invoicing and maintaining dual books.”
The image of the entity was smudged by a $300M fraud, which resulted from collusion between staff of the Information Technology Division and the cashier area. GRA has since dismissed the officers involved and was able to institute charges against two of the perpetrators. One of the suspects has fled the jurisdiction while another recently received permission by the High Court to leave the country.
The organisation said that it has prosecuted hundreds of delinquent taxpayers. Many of them were convicted and millions of dollars were recouped when they were made to submit returns and honour their tax obligation in addition to paying fines and penalties.
“Our efforts to prosecute delinquent taxpayers continue to suffer as a result of the back log of cases facing the judicial system. Many cases with significant revenue implications have not been called up for hearing and determination.”
However, this “resounding success”, Sattaur said, can be attributed to the shift the organisation has taken from a tax type to a functional approach of administering taxes and the reliability of the Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS) to facilitate the process.
“The change process began with a commitment to change the organisation structure under the Government of Guyana/Millennium Challenge Corporation, Guyana Threshold Country Plan/ Implementation project two years ago. 2009, was dedicated to refining the new organisation structure, infrastructural enhancement, and human resource development for improved efficiency and effectiveness.”
Major areas of organisational improvements included the new organisation structure designed along functional lines that would greater enhance effectiveness in tax administration in all functional areas.
The official also credited the success in revenue collection to the work of the new Debt Management Division.
To ensure a total quality management of work produced or services performed, a Performance Management System was developed to give staff a clear understanding of the quality and quantity of work required.
“Moreover, in order to improve efficiency in workflow and introduce more transparency, more than 300 Standard Operational Procedures were developed. These have significantly impacted on the Customs operations since it now takes less than three days for documents to be processed and goods to be released to a compliant importer.”
A number of job descriptions have also been developed for the seventeen functional areas.
As a result, there is more effective management of resources through better definition of the duties of staff.
“The organisation is already experiencing the returns on its investment in providing training at all level to more than 600 of its staff (more than half) and will continue in the same vein using GRA resources that have been trained to provide such continuous training as part of a policy to upgrade staff and to continuously monitor their performance.”
GRA disclosed that it has instituted more than 15 policies on Human Resource to deal with more effective use of its staff and to make them more motivated especially the performance management system which is at its final stages of implementation.
“The TRIPS has been aligned to these business processes to ensure efficiency and security of operations. In order to better execute its mandate to protect revenue and improve its service to all stakeholders, there were also improvements to the organisation’s infrastructure during 2009.”
These included the construction of a state warehouse; acquisition of three patrol boats; acquisition of a container scanner and plans are in place to occupy a single tax administration building to house the entire operations of GRA at one location some time in the New Year which will prove more convenient for taxpayers.
The year 2009 also saw the creation of new areas of operation. These include an intelligence unit that would provide for the profiling of taxpayer for audit and investigation and other forms of scrutiny; a single unit for the policing of defaulters for all tax offences (law enforcement) previously only dealt with customs evasion.
“Hence the Law Enforcement and Investigations Division will now deal with all forms of evasion.”
A corporate communication and policy unit newly established will provide guidance to the taxpaying public on the laws and procedures applied by the GRA in administering the laws and a Tax Analysis Unit that would serve to enhance the GRA performance in all functional areas by providing detailed analysis of the results and the deficiencies that would have led to some level of short coming in the organisation’s overall performance.
According to Sattaur, there was increased compliance as the GRA engaged in activities to inform, educate and assist taxpayers to understand their rights, responsibilities and obligations with respect to the various Tax Acts and Policies, and engaged them to comply voluntarily.
“The activities included the hosting of tax sites, conducting advisory and compliance visits to taxpayers and VAT registrants; conducting seminars and information sessions for various stakeholder groups, publishing policies, airing television programmes and infomercials to aid the various publics.
These activities resulted in an increase in the number of returns filed for the year of assessment 2009.”
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