– GRA Boss says authority must honour its obligations to taxpayers
For too long, citizens have had to endure a one-way relationship with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). They are expected to pay their taxes on time. Failure to do so results in penalties of various forms. But when taxpayers overpay and make a claim for a refund, they have to endure the slothfulness of the Revenue Authority. This state of affairs has existed for years.
GRA’s Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, is however, on a mission to ensure that the tax agency holds up its end of the bargain by issuing refunds in a timely manner. Already for this year, GRA has paid out over $350M in Value Added Tax Refunds.
Statia made this and other disclosures during a business luncheon that was recently held at the Georgetown Club, Camp Street. The luncheon was hosted by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA). There, Statia gave the feature address and fielded a few questions from concerned stakeholders.
Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, asked Statia if he saw any merit in the call for a Taxpayers’ Code and or a Bill of Rights that would ensure a level playing field between the tax regulators and taxpayers. He said that this is necessary if one looks at the sore issue of refunds.
The Attorney-at-Law commented that the Authority must commit itself to honouring its obligations to taxpayers and not offer the excuse, “Oh, we don’t have enough internal audit staff so we can’t refund the money because we can’t do the audit.”
Ram suggested to the Commissioner General that the refunds should be given when there is a request and if it is later found that it was a false claim then there are avenues for recovering that money.
Statia responded that while he is not sure about how effective and applicable a Bill of Rights would be, GRA has acknowledged that it has obligations to the taxpayers that it should be keeping.
The Commissioner General said, “If the person is entitled to a refund then he should get the refund. I forwarded to the Ministry of Finance earlier this year (a request) for us to get money so we could pay refunds. Previously, refunds were a thing of the past…”
He continued, “So far for this year, we have paid over $350M and we have applied for another tranche. I have advised my staff to pay out those refunds to taxpayers who have had refunds outstanding for ages. It is not that we do not know our obligations but we were not keeping it.”
The GRA Head added, “I think it is wrong if a man overpays and you hold on to his taxes.
There must be similar obligations. If we are required to charge interest on the taxes you owe us then surly we should be paying interest on the taxes we owe you…Whether we have a Bill of Rights or not, we have to have the will to do what is right.”
Statia reiterated that in the meantime, the revenue agency has been ensuring that taxpayers have been paid their refunds and the authority will continue to improve in this regard.
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