Time and time again, the APNU+AFC government has been accused of giving with one hand, while taking much more with the other. We’ve see this strategy unfold with the administration increasing the Old Age Pension from $13,000 to what it is now, $19,000. But on the other hand, they took away the electricity and water subsidies that pensioners enjoyed under the PPP/C administration, leaving our senior citizens to pay their own utility bills.
They have improved transportation for children in a few selected communities, allowing them easier access to schools through their “B’s” initiative. But on the other hand, they took away the $10,000 ‘Because We Care’ school grants that were given to every child in the public school system. They have improved Immigration services, making it easier for persons to obtain passports, but increased the cost of this document from $4,000 to $6,000 and the Travel Tax at airports from $2,500 to $3,500.
While the Income Tax threshold has been increased, and the Minister of Finance deserves some credit for this, he must be aware that whatever little savings are gained from these measures are taken away by the additional tax burdens now imposed on every household. Guyanese all over are struggling to make ends meet under this administration. This year, the cost of living will be tough going for most families with the 14% VAT now added to water and electricity. Gasoline prices have already gone up. This will soon be followed by an increase in the cost of transportation; tolls have increased; the cost of basic food items is steadily going up; vehicular licences have already gone up since this government came into being. Fees to transfer the registration of a vehicle have jumped from $5,000 to $25,000 or 2% of the value of the vehicle, whichever is greater.
Fees for permits and other documents have also gone up, and the cost to obtain a liquor licence has just been increased last Friday. This is not the “good life” that the Guyanese people expected. Editor, the Ministry of the Presidency sent in men to take over the Red House, tearing down the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre signboard with the aim of destroying the legacy of one of our Founding Fathers, followed by the despicable behaviour of the PNCR who disrupted a peaceful candlelight vigil. And while things continue to go up, the only thing that seems to be coming down is the credibility of this administration.
People are becoming desperate. This is reflected in the escalation of robberies being reported every day in the press. More and more young Guyanese are risking apprehension and incarceration just to survive and provide for their families. Where are the jobs that were promised during the election campaign by the coalition? Editor, listening to the Minister of Finance during the debate on the Income Tax (Amendment Bills) in Parliament, he made it sound as though a taxpayer can easily go to the GRA and claim monies due to him.
This is highly unlikely to happen, something my colleague Bishop Edghill alluded to in his speech. Chapter 22 of the principal Act states that “If the tax payable under the assessment is less than the tax deducted from any person’s emoluments during the year of assessment, the Commissioner-General shall repay the difference to such person, in accordance with Section 107 of the Act.”
There is no time limit set out here as to when a taxpayer will get a refund from the GRA. But Section 21 (1) of the same Act clearly states that “If the tax payable under the assessment exceeds the total tax deducted from any person’s emoluments during the year, the excess shall be payable by such person to the Commissioner-General within thirty days after that person is served with a notice by the GRA.” In fact, what this Act is saying, is that if a citizen under-pays the GRA, he’s given 30 days to pay up or face the consequences, which will be very severe. But when the GRA owes hard-working taxpayers of this country money for taxes overpaid, they have to wait several years until the GRA finally gets around to processing their files.
Since my return to Guyana 4 years ago, I have dutifully submitted my income tax returns year after year, but I’m yet to receive a notice from the GRA with a check for the amounts that I have over-paid. And when contacted, I’m told by the GRA that they’re still working on the 2012 returns.
There are some who believe that the amount of money owing to the Guyanese taxpayers by the GRA may well exceed $8 billion. Whether this amount is accurate or not, one thing is certain: When the GRA owes you money, they’re in no hurry to give it back to you. This double standard is yet another exercise in gross mismanagement and incompetence.
Harry Gill, MP-PPP
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