PM: It’s tax collection or more taxes
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has warned that if Government did not improve its revenue collection system, with the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) as the collecting agency, his administration would be forced to “impose heavier burdens” on Barbadians.
However, responding to questions from reporters this evening after chairing a day-long meeting of the Social Partnership at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Stuart said he did not wish to impose any more taxes.
Government has said that the agency was designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the current collection system.
“We have been having serious problems with some persons being able to circumvent the tax laws and to stay without the tax net; and it is important that if we are going to continue to provide the quality of service, and to provide the quality of services that we think desirable for Barbadians that we get the revenue to do the things we want to do. Without the revenue we have to impose heavier burdens on the population and we do not think that is desirable,” the Prime Minister said.
The central revenue body was established in April 1, 2014 to, among other duties, assess, collect and enforce the payment of taxes, duties, interest, penalties and fees as prescribed in the Barbados Revenue Authority Act.
It evolved from a merger of various tax collecting agencies, including the Inland Revenue and Land Tax Departments, as well as the Value Added Tax Office and the Licensing Authority.
However, with the agency continuing to face teething problems, employees of the Customs and Excise Department have resisted efforts to merge their functions into BRA, contending that Customs was a law enforcement entity.
Asked if he was satisfied after a year that BRA was still the right fit for the island, Stuart argued that it received the support of both sides of the House.
“The issue of a central revenue authority did not originate with us. It originated under the previous administration, and that is why when the bill was debated in Parliament, former Prime Minister [Owen] Author made it very clear that he could not in good conscience stand up in the House as an Opposition member and oppose the bill because it started under his administration,” said Stuart.
“So really there is a bipartisan consensus on the need for a central revenue authority.”
However, it was only last month in her response to the 2015-2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that Opposition Leader Mia Mottley made it clear that the Barbados Labour Party did not support the absorption of Customs into BRA.
While agreeing that a central revenue authority was Athur’s brainchild, she said the former Prime Minister had a policy paper which stated that the Customs Department was not intended to be part of it.
“That is still the position of the Barbados Labour Party,” she said at the time.