Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, listening attentively during the launch ceremony. Als pictured from left are Country Representative for the IDB, Anneke Jessen and Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Annette Weekes.
The hammer could be coming down on those Value Added Tax (VAT) defaulters who have racked up a staggering $300 million in arrears inclusive of penalties and interest.
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, revealed this sobering statistic today while addressing the official launch of the VAT and Excise Administration System. It was held at the Accra Beach Hotel, Worthing, Christ Church.
The Minister said a review of the existing VAT legislation has highlighted an "overwhelming inadequacy in terms of the power it grants to actual debt recovery and related activities so necessary for a modern VAT administration to operate an effective arrears regime".
Given this situation, Mr. Sinckler disclosed that a consultant had been hired to review the legislation as it related to collections and enforcement.?? He also revealed that the consultant had already submitted the draft amendments which were being reviewed by officials in the Customs and Excise Department.??
"The draft amendments are expected to introduce a full spectrum of powers of enforcement for an effective modern debt management regime, including the power to write off irrecoverable debt, lien against property and the granting of time to pay arrears by installments," he noted.
In light of this, he also divulged that the Ministry, in collaboration with the Data Processing Department, was working with banking officials to provide a low-cost e-payment solution to facilitate the electronic payment of taxes to government.
"Such a development, would allow registrants to make payments from the comfort of their own surroundings.?? I am sure that you would also agree that this feature would result in significant savings, given the length of time and loss of productivity associated with traversing our busy roads," Mr. Sinckler surmised.
In highlighting the importance of the VAT and Excise Tax Administration System in the transformation of the Customs and Excise Department, in areas such as revenue collection and interdicting transnational crime, the Finance Minister said the programme "could not have come at a better time".
"Indeed, if Barbados and its economy is to recovery fully from the onslaught of the economic crisis and maintain a sustainable growth path going forward, it is critical that all stakeholders seek to improve the way business is conducted.?? In fact, improved efficiency and effectiveness is the only way that Barbados can realise its vision of being a central hub for the conduct of business," Mr. Sinckler suggested.