“No equity about a tax”
BU followed some of the debate to the Barbados Revenue Authority (Amendment) Act 2017 this week and wondered why the government waited so long to implement measures to make tax collection more efficient. If we are to enjoy services financed by from the public purse taxpayers must pay their taxes. Who likes to pay taxes anyway.
Of concern to BU however is why does government continue to ignore the leaking foreign exchange where well respected companies operating in Barbados do NOT bring all foreign dollars earned onshore. This scam has been ongoing for decades and is known to successive government.
The following Barbados Advocate Editorial is therefore of interest – Barbados Underground
“In a taxing statute one has to look merely at what is clearly said. There is no room for any intendment. There is no equity about a tax. There is no presumption as to a tax. Nothing is to be read in, nothing to be implied. One can only look at the language used.” –per Rowlat J in Cape Brandy Syndicate v IRC (1921) [Emphasis added]
Despite its patently significant contribution to the national welfare, the idea of taxation proves nettlesome to most persons. Hence, whether through the criminalized mode of tax evasion or that of the more licit tax avoidance, citizens try to arrange their affairs so that they themselves pay, or that these affairs attract, the least tax possible.
Therefore, when a taxpayer is required to produce documentary evidence of having fully complied with his or her tax liabilities and thus made their contribution to the national purse, he or she may instinctively baulk at this “imposition”, more particularly so when it is stipulated as a necessary precondition to conducting some activity or other that was thitherto regarded as a natural freedom of the individual.
Such was the popular reaction to the governing administration when it sought to pass the Barbados Revenue Authority (Amendment) Act 2017 in the Lower Chamber on Tuesday of this week.
Essentially, this piece of legislation, as others elsewhere, seeks to require a person that is desirous of making a disposition of land by conveyance or lease to another or of making application for the renewal of a liquor licence, to obtain a tax clearance certificate from the Revenue Commissioner order to facilitate and legitimize the transaction. Ideally, all taxes, including those assessable under the Excise Tax Act, the Income Tax Act, the Land Tax Act and the Value Added Tax Act respectively should have been paid in order to obtain the requisite certificate.
Some allowance is made, however, for the delinquent taxpayer that has paid not less than 10% of the tax due (including interest and penalties) and has executed an agreement with the Barbados Revenue Authority for the purpose of making scheduled payments to liquidate the further outstanding sums.
Naturally, there has been much negative reaction to this. The Oppositions claims that it is outright unconstitutional, while a statement from the Bar association asserts “mischief” and “constitutional implications” in that there is an absence of a provision for due process for the taxpayer to object to the sum of tax assessed by the Authority as owed to the Crown.
This latter objection is not without some merit, although, as the Honourable Prime Minister intimated during the debate, a finding of unconstitutionality is a matter for the court and not for mere assertion.
We consider that a simple resolution of this matter lies in having the Revenue Authority first provide each applicant for a certificate with an assessment of unpaid taxes. The applicant would then be free to object to that assessment within a stated period, failing which the applicant will be held to have accepted its conclusiveness. Thereafter, the certificate would, or would not, be issued accordingly.
The governing administration rightly stresses the need for citizens to pay their taxes if we are to continue to enjoy those entitlements that we have come to regard as the fundamental rights of Barbadians. The social contract is dependent on each party duly performing its part. This new initiative will create for some a conflict between civic duty and selfish personal ambition. May we all be mature and selfless enough to fulfill our tax obligations for the sake of the nation that has given us so much.