By Kiana Wilburg
In 2016, revenue collection at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) stood at $151,745,525,000. But since then, GRA has seen an over 12 percent growth rate with revenue now pegged at $223,582,900,000.
The political opposition has often argued that the foregoing increase is directly linked to the introduction of more taxes. But GRA’s Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia strongly contends that this is a grossly inaccurate perception.
The tax boss noted that the increased collections are due to improvements in tax administration as well as more stringent, equitable and transparent tax policies. He also said that enhanced capacity and capabilities at GRA contributed to same.
Statia asserted that reforms at GRA included a refocused and fortified risk management, a risk-based debt management strategy, full operationalisation of the Large Taxpayers Unit to serve some 243 taxpayers and improved trade facilitation for importers and exporters as a result of the new operating software for Customs called ASYCUDA.
Further to this, the tax boss said that the stamping of alcohol and cigarettes to reduce the incidence of smuggling, and the increase in both the range and quality of services countrywide have enabled the authority to improve its collection.
The Chartered Accountant also pointed out that GRA has actually facilitated the reduction of a number of tax rates as well as introduced several measures to ease the burden on Guyanese.
In this regard, Statia noted that the authority had introduced in 2018, an amnesty programme which allowed for previously non-compliant individuals and entities to become compliant with no punitive measure for known non-compliance. He said that this had led to a significant amount of revenue in 2019 being current and not disputed or in arrears taxes. The tax boss further argued that this is a direct result of the positive consequence of the amnesty programme.
The Commissioner General also stated that there was no introduction or amendment of any tax type that served to increase the tax burden on the Guyanese population. Conversely, he said that the government’s 2017, 2018, and 2019 budgets included a suite of measures aimed at alleviating the tax burden on the populace.
He said that these included the corporate tax rate for non-commercial and manufacturing companies being reduced from 30 percent to 27.5 percent and then to 25 percent over two years. Statia noted that represents a total decrease of 16.67 percent.
The tax chief also noted that the individual threshold was increased from $50,000 in 2015 to $55,000 in 2016; $60,000 or one-third of the total income in 2017; and $65,000 or one-third of the total income in 2019. Statia reminded also that the effective tax rates for individuals decreased from 30 percent in 2015 to 25.67 percent in 2017 while noting that small businesses benefitted from a decrease in the tax rate to 25 percent for both businesses and individuals.
The Commissioner General also reminded that the Value Added Tax rates were reduced from 16 percent to 14 percent in 2017 while the property tax rates for companies and individuals were equalised in 2019 and the threshold increased to $40M from $10M for companies.
Statia in his concluding statements on the matter said, “In what is known as the ‘silly season’ of electioneering, I will not allow the GRA to be used for political mileage. As a professional public servant, I intend to and will continue to discharge my statutory and ethical obligations, unfettered and unhindered, for the benefit of the people of Guyana regardless of the government of the day.”
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