– Container scanner, new features in 2011
Despite a challenging year in which large taxpayers were troubled to make payments, the country is set to achieve its $94B revenue target.
According to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), while there have been several positive developments for the agency, there were also quite a number of challenges.
Last year, GRA raked in $89.1B for the government coffers.
Some of the challenges included taking staff from duties at critical times for training and issues of corruption.
The agency explained that it was forced to discipline a number of staffers within recent times and conduct audits on several businesses which were not readily cooperative in producing records for verification.
It was found that records were not maintained by some businesses for seven years as stipulated by regulations.
In the area of enforcement, GRA said that it had to enhance its activities as persons continued to conduct illegal activities including smuggling and the submission of false declarations.
“In spite of limited resources, in terms of manpower and equipment and given our vast boarders, the GRA by way of its Law Enforcement and Investigation Division has made inroads on these illegal practices, significantly impacting revenue in terms of duties and taxes collected, through the application of correct values and commodity codes, from fines or compensation and sale of seized goods.”
Among enforcement activities, were increased surveillance on land and water, anti-smuggling and intelligence-gathering, profiling and targeting of passengers at CJIA, monitoring of vehicles arriving from Brazil and Suriname, and prosecution of offenders.
But the agency disclosed that many of the matters were settled out of court.
According to GRA, there have been instances where businesses have also been involved in bribing officers by offering inducements.
Regarding the filing of tax returns, this was also a challenge for the organization with particularly self-employed persons who either failed to file returns or submit incomplete ones that prevents the information from being entered in the database.
GRA also slammed what it described as negative publicity by “some media operatives”.
Commissioner-General Khurshid Sattaur noted that it was rather unfortunate that the major revenue collecting body of the country, which has completed ten years of operations and has maintained an upward trend, has been subject to “bad publicity”, rather than the kind that would help to promote compliance.
“At the expense of the organization and the risk of the lives of dedicated officers, information has been leaked to the press who treats with the information in a deleterious manner.
Moreover, the action of these media houses also compromises the collection of revenues and causes a decrease in sources of intelligence information due to a perceived lack of confidentiality on the part of the GRA,” the agency complained.
According to Sattaur, while the approved revenue estimates for 2010 was $94B and there is no doubt that the organization will achieve the target, there is some concern with regards to the inability of some large taxpayers to sustain their tax payments at current levels.
Efforts will be increased to ensure that taxes are collected, he warned.
Over the past year, the GRA was able to create new areas of operation including merging the Post Clearance Audit with the Risk Management function and the expansion of the mandate of the Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) to include Anti-Narcotics Monitoring, Surveillance and Examination of Exports.
A new unit, ‘The Scanner Operations/ Imports/ Exports’ was established within LEID with direct responsibility for the execution of the added mandate.
Additionally, GRA said, works are progressing well at another office being constructed on High Street, which will house all of its major administrative operations. This should happen by mid-2011 with taxpayers being able to experience a one-stop access to all services on major taxes administered by GRA.
At Eccles, East Bank Demerara, GRA has also completed construction of its warehouse facility, which will be used to store seized and want-of-entry cargo. Arrangements are currently in progress to relocate vehicles from the warehouse at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara, to the warehouse and to procure and install furniture and equipment.
Staff is also being deployed to make the warehouse fully operational, it was disclosed.
“This will facilitate more timely storage of want-of-entry cargo, result in more want-of-entry charges being collected, facilitate auction sales being held more frequently and result in increased revenue collections.”
Meanwhile, GRA said that it has acquired a container scanner to facilitate a more advanced and efficient system of examination of imported and exported containerized cargo. Works are currently in progress to prepare the site at the Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC) compound for the scanner and arrangements are in place for the procedures for operation of the scanner to be developed and for staff to be trained to operate the apparatus.
This “Non-Intrusive Detection Equipment” is expected to be put into operation by January 1, 2011
Regarding the processing of customs entries, a major bugbear for businesses, GRA said it has put in place a number of measures which include the acquisition and installation of equipment and implementation of a system to track and display the status of customs transactions/entries.
A large monitor has been installed at Customs House to facilitate this process and this allows for importers to ascertain the status of their entries. The GRA has also implemented a Risk Management system for imported goods, which involves profiling imports for examination, enforcement checks and document checks, based on risk assessment.
“This initiative has resulted in improved efficiency in the management of Customs operations; reduced opportunities for collusion between importers and GRA staff; reduced incidences of corrupt activities; exposure of non-compliant importers; improved compliance and a significant increase in revenue collection. This system will also complement the scanning process.”
The GRA further noted that for 2010 it focused on further development and implementation of the integrated tax administration by continuing the integration of the VAT, Customs and Internal Revenue administration functions and the alignment of the various business processes and procedures with TRIPS capabilities.
“In this regard, additional integrated Regional Tax Offices were established and fully operationalised at Anna Regina, Linden and New Amsterdam. During 2008, the first integrated Regional Tax Office was established at Corriverton in Region #6, as a pilot project.”
Infrastructural works and other activities are said to be currently in progress for the establishment of integrated Regional Offices at Lethem and Parika also. It is expected that these offices will be fully operational by the first quarter of 2011.
Meanwhile, regarding the Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS), GRA said it has identified its deficiencies, with recommendations being made for enhancements to the Crown Agents.
The agency pointed out that it has been engaged in several construction and enhancement projects. These include the construction of a building at Crab Island for officers assigned to that location; construction of a boathouse, office building, living quarters and bond at Charity; and an office building and living quarters at Kurupukari.
It was also highlighted, that there has been an increase of 41% in the number of Property Tax returns filed and 19% by companies.
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