-Is actually part of the VAT Act promulgated by the PPP
The move by the coalition Government to revise the Income Tax Act so as to empower the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to garnish funds from bank accounts held by taxpayers has attracted much controversy.
Particularly, members of the business community have expressed concerns to the effect that GRA would be able to do garnish or seize funds from citizens’ bank accounts without the permission of the court.
They firmly believe that if this is the case, then it is not only absurd but unconstitutional.
Opposition Member, Anil Nandlall is one against the measure. The Member of Parliament in a letter to the press said that the new measure is just another attempt to invade the privacy of persons’ bank accounts.
Nandlall said, “No one will ever be comfortable with the tax authorities having power to raid their bank accounts with no reason given. It simply smacks of authoritarianism and interference with property rights which are protected by the constitution. After all, money is property.”
He continued, “What is of greater concern is the intention to ‘garnish’ people’s accounts and to seize from there, monies and to apply those monies to liquidate outstanding taxes. In my humble view, this is not only a misuse and abuse of garnishment but it is also draconian.
Garnishment is a proceeding whereby a person’s property or credits in the possession or under the control of another, are applied to the former’s debt to a third person.”
Nandlall noted that a Bill will eventually have to be tabled in the National Assembly conferring this power upon the GRA. Unless the Bill meets the litmus test of constitutionality, fairness and due process, the Opposition Member said it will be vehemently opposed by the PPP in the National Assembly.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan, explaining the proposed tax measure, emphasized that the measure is intended to assist in improving compliance with demands issued by the GRA for outstanding payments.
The economist stressed, too, that the provision of garnishment is one which already exists in the Value Added Tax Act that was promulgated by the People’s Progressive Party.
He said that while GRA already has this power under the VAT Act, what Government is simply doing is providing similar arrangements under the Income Tax Act.
The Finance Minister said that contrary to the confusion, tales and fears being spread and invoked by some, there is no move to have the new garnishment provision being used in an arbitrary manner or “willy-nilly” fashion by the GRA. The judicial system is not being removed from the process, he added. (KIANA WILBURG)
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