Bajans wait until last minute to take advantage of Government amnesty
Thousands of taxpayers with Value Added Tax (VAT), Income Tax and Land Tax arrears have taken advantage of the six-month amnesty programme introduced by Government last September.
In the final days of the amnesty, there was an overwhelming response, with hundreds of Barbadians rushing to make their payments, according to communications officer with the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) Erica Lazare.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited some of the BRA locations Wednesday afternoon, taxpayers could be seen making their way to the cashiers to ensure they took advantage of the waived penalties, interest and other charges incurred up to September 14, 2016.
However, it was at the Treasury Building in Bridgetown where lines stretched outside, with some people telling Barbados TODAY they had been waiting hours to make their payments.
An elderly woman, who did not want to be identified, said she was paying on behalf of her daughter who was unable to make it there herself.
“This is slow. This is unbearably slow. I was here from just after 9 o’clock this morning,” she said, before looking at her watch and exclaiming that it was midday.
Another woman, who also complained about the long wait, said she was not necessarily taking advantage of the amnesty programme since she could “only pay when I get paid”.
Lazare told Barbados TODAY there was a positive response from the public as soon as the amnesty was announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in August last year.
“A healthy number of individuals and businesses have been taking advantage of this opportunity over the past few months, but I can say that the number of taxpayers coming to us has increased sharply this week,” she said.
“As expected, the Treasury Building had the heaviest foot traffic, but this is an occurrence that we have come to expect and we put structures in place to help deal with the increase in amnesty requests. Our staff has been brilliant during these last few weeks, many working long hours and going beyond the call of duty to ensure that persons were . . . able to pay off the monies they owed,” Lazare noted, adding that the BRA would continue to do what was necessary to collect the millions of dollars in outstanding taxes.
“We are, however, trying to emphasize a policy of voluntary compliance and have been increasing our level of stakeholder engagement.”
When Minister Sinckler announced the tax amnesty last August, he said that although the outstanding taxes to government was in the region of $568 million, he was expecting at least $15 million to be collected “based on past experiences”.