Jan 10, 2016 News
– depressed Linden collects as much taxes as vibrant Corriverton
By Leonard Gildarie
The country’s tax system is distorted and is in urgent need of refinement. A recent review uncovered
a number of serious concerns.
The disclosures were made Friday by Chairman of the governing Board of Directors of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Rawle Lucas, at the entity’s Camp Street headquarters.
During the press conference, the official noted that it is an understatement to say that GRA does not enjoy a good reputation among the public.
The new board, headed by Lucas, was appointed mere weeks after the David Granger administration took office in May last year following the coalition’s victory at early general elections.
GRA had been under the microscope for a number of years over its revenue collections, corruption, investigations of possible fraud into duty free concessions and the leaking of confidential tax information.
In December, the GRA board sent Commissioner-General Khurshid Sattaur on administrative leave pending a forensic audit on the organization that is to be carried out by a foreign firm.
Lucas noted that there is an urgent need to improve relations between taxpayers and GRA since an atmosphere of animosity is not good for tax collection.
Hinting that GRA staffers will have to go beyond mere courtesy and timely service, the official said that more training to ensure efficiency and capacity is coming.
GRA, the country’s tax collection authority, is planning, this year, to introduce its e-service capacity allowing taxpayers to go online to check transactions and other information.
GRA is working on another service to allow employers to file income tax payments online also.
However, Lucas warned that the while Guyana remains ambitious, there is a need for Guyana to be realistic of the huge problem surrounding the issue of non-compliance by taxpayers.
As a matter of fact, he said that since being appointed, GRA’s board has commissioned a review of number of areas in the country, looking at economic data between 2006-2014.
They utilized figures from GRA, from the Bank of Guyana, on imports as well as spending. There were immediately questions raised, based on the figures, how the country managed to spend so much with such little money.
The exercise was conducted for areas including Corriverton, New Amsterdam, Ogle, Linden, Bartica, Parika, Lethem and Anna Region.
According to Lucas, it helped confirme that the country’s tax base is ill-defined and distorted, and in need of urgent refinement.
It appeared that revenue leaked through all of GRA’s tax structures, with huge concerns over the losses in income tax, property tax, and Value-Added Tax.
There was a huge red flag over registered taxpayers as against who were paying- Those paying were far fewer. The Chairman noted that in an economy where the annual growth is projected at over four percent, the percentage of taxpayers is actually declining.
It is the intention of GRA to urgently study this phenomenon to understand and to reverse it. GRA decided to disaggregate its revenue base with some attention to the economic centres.
Lucas said that one would have thought that areas like Corriverton, in Region Six, with its multi- cultural economy, would have been making a larger contribution than the $1.3B. A depressed area like Linden, Region ten, managed to rake in $1.1B in revenues on a much narrower economic base, the Chairman disclosed.
The worrying thing of those economic centers is the fact that the places only contributed an estimated two percent of the country’s revenues.
“This is as much a surprise to me as to others,” a grim Lucas said.
He said that one is surprised, too, that areas like Anna Regina and Bartica cannot do as well or even better than the New Amsterdam. It is under circumstances like these where observed levels of economics activities to revenues (do not match) that GRA must use its enforcement authority.
Lucas said that the public and taxpayers should not view GRA officers as villains- they are humans too.
GRA is also warning that a tougher stance is coming on corruption with equal stance being taken against its officials as well as any taxpayers caught paying a bribe.
At the press conference with Lucas on Friday were Commissioner-General (Ag), Ingrid Griffith, and other senior officials.
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