Jan 14, 2016 News
– Tax Reform Committee yet to submit report to Finance Minister
The way forward on the reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) is unlikely to be heard when Finance Minister,
Winston Jordan, presents the 2016 budget in a few weeks.
Kaieteur News understands that the Tax Reform Committee which was established in August 2015, had until December 2015, to produce an interim report from which provisions/announcements could be made in the 2016 National Budget. However, the report was not submitted.
A further extension for the first week in January was requested and granted. But even this was not met. With Jordan’s ambitious plans to produce the 2016 budget this month, he noted that it is not likely that the findings of the Committee would make its way into the budget.
However, Jordan explained that even if the Committee recommends that VAT be reduced, Government would not take the decision to immediately implement this proposal as a number of economic implications would have to be taken into consideration.
He said, “I know that (the Committee) had some difficulties in terms of meeting and timings but I do not have a new date when they would be submitting the report. They have not come back to me with a new date.”
“I was looking forward to it and the intention was to start implementing at least some of their recommendations starting from this budget, but I can’t see it happening because we are already in the second week in January.
“But one has to press on. It will come some time…There is no time to stick (the recommendations) in. Even if they make a recommendation to reduce VAT, that is something that still has to be carefully looked at and decided at Cabinet and examine the ramifications and so on.”
The Tax Review Committee is chaired by Economist, Dr. Maurice Odle, and includes tax specialists Christopher Ram, Godfrey Statia and Dr. Thomas Singh.
Minister Jordan had told the State media that the Committee has been given its Terms of Reference (TOR) to guide its work which includes investigating and inquiring into the state of taxation, to review the taxes with a view to achieving a number of objectives and to look at the administration of taxes with a view to bringing about efficiency, and rationalization.
“We are aiming to look after all taxes, their structure, their functions, objectives, equity, incidence and fairness, and essentially how these taxes are administered because that’s a major issue.
“I want taxpayers to feel that they can pay taxes because they have a friendly tax service.
“We want a system that is fair and firm and one that doesn’t exempt friends of the Government, friends of the tax commissioner. It should be seen by all as fair as it is applied all across the board. It has a rigorous legal system in place that can go after tax dodgers, tax cheats,” the Minister had stated.
According to the Minister, the committee will not only be looking at how to reduce the Value Added Tax, but will also be examining all taxes with a view of relieving the burden on the population.
“We are going to do tax administration and taxation in a systemic way, informed by evidence, and not necessarily being pushed by moral and other considerations, so this committee represents the first step in doing that,” Minister Jordan said.
Jordan had explained that while Government promised to reduce VAT it was found that it could not be done so immediately.
“It would have been highly irresponsible for us to just come in, take a major tax category like VAT and just proceed to reduce it, in the hope that it would meet some objective or criteria earlier stated,” the Finance Minister had said.
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, intimated to Kaieteur News during a recent interview that he believes that the government’s manifesto promises, one of which includes the reduction of VAT, were positive and designed to bring benefits to the people.
“We will not stand in any way against benefits going to the ordinary Guyanese.”
However, the Opposition Leader said that he is disappointed that Government is yet to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT). He reminded that Government said it would be guided by a Committee which was established to look at this, but it has been some five months now since the establishment of the Committee, and not a single word has been said on it.
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