…GRA Commissioner General says contractors and subcontractors would be audited
By Kiana Wilburg
With the use of devious tax loopholes, major oil companies have been able to rob nations of billions of dollars in taxes.
Trinidad and Tobago, for example, loses US$200M annually as oil companies operating there are constantly shifting their profits from one CARICOM country to the next. This strategic move is done to escape TT’s tax laws.
The regulations there stipulate that oil companies must pay a tax on profits it wants to send from TT directly to its international headquarters.
GRA Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, said yesterday that he took note of this matter, which was highlighted in the Kaieteur News over the last weekend. But he confidently stated that under his watch, this would not occur.
“I read with amusement in the Kaieteur News that US$200M in withholding taxes is (leaking from the Trinidad’s national purse) annually because the guys were doing intercompany transfers in sister companies within the Caribbean. But I would like to say that if that occurs here, it would not be under my watch.”
He continued, “It means that the tax officers were not doing their job properly. You ought to be able to pierce all of these veils…If you have the correct staff doing reviews, audits and investigations, you would be able to see where all the money ends up. ExxonMobil is not the only taxpayer or oil company that has been doing that.”
Statia said, “Guyanese taxpayers have been doing that for years. The oil companies have been doing it since in the 70s. There are cases whereby the GRA would have won cases in the 70s. (But) what we lack is people who have the competence to go and find these additional taxes. That is what we are trying to do, train and equip our staff.”
APPROACH WITH AUDITS
As for the GRA’s approach, Statia said that this would be multipronged. He said that there are audits which would produce in some cases, more revenues “than if you go on the spot and do observation”.
The tax chief stated, too, that there is software that can trace funds all over the world but the entity is not equipped in this regard as yet.
As for the audits to be conducted on the oil companies, Statia said that this would take the form of expense, revenue and asset based audits.
Statia said, “There would also be as ‘per-well’ audits which would be done in the interest of ring-fencing to avoid shifting expenses from one well to the next; so upcoming audits would include all of these as the need arises.”
The Commissioner General said that the aforementioned audits would not only be conducted on the contractor, ExxonMobil, but also on its subcontractors.
“When we are looking at what we are getting from oil, we tend to just focus on the half share. However, we don’t even look and see the taxes we could get from the contractors. These are some of the things we need to put our minds to.”
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