For the fiscal period ending March 31, 2021, the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) collected just over $2.24 billion.
However, says the Revenue Commissioner at the BRA, Louisa Lewis-Ward, this amount is down by over $208 million in comparison with the previous year, and she attributes the decrease to the COVID-19 pandemic and a rapidly slowing economy.
Mrs. Lewis-Ward made the comments today during a virtual media conference. She told reporters: “This decline of eight per cent is primarily attributed to a decline of $192 million in VAT; a decline of $117 million in income tax; and an excise tax decline of $81 million.
“Secondary impact was felt with declines in property tax, withholding tax, fuel tax and room rate levy of $24 million, $17 million, $15 million, and $14 million, respectively. I guess the levy reflecting the impact that COVID has had on the tourism sector. Corporation taxes performed well, buffering some of the negative impact and without that, the decline would have averaged about 20 per cent.”
The Revenue Commissioner pointed out that VAT continued to be the largest contributor to the tax revenues and said therefore the BRA’s policy around this tax would be carefully monitored in the upcoming period.
She noted that policymakers had signalled no intention to raise taxes in this challenged environment. She stressed that Barbadians will therefore need to work hard and be extremely innovative to ensure a recovery, while saying that a rebound of the tourism sector was key.
With regard to licensing matters, Mrs. Lewis-Ward said the new online vehicle registration and renewals process commenced in January this year and had resulted in more than 2,400 applicants registering to transfer vehicles between then and now. She noted that over one million dollars had been collected from this activity.
She explained that the process was enhanced to include a back office check of all the information provided in order to transfer vehicles.
“What we have found from this process is a weakness in the information provided…. So, whilst we have effectively moved the process from the cashier locations at the Pine, which creates significantly longer lines, this back end work has slowed the process too much.
“We have over the last two months applied significant numbers of staff in order to process the heavy number of transactions in a timely manner. So, as of May 6, we have had approximately…2,500 applications, and of that total, 247 are awaiting online payment and 324 are still outstanding because applicants didn’t submit all the required documentation or because errors or inconsistencies in vehicle details are found in the documents submitted.”
Therefore, the Revenue Commissioner said those persons who had not received their number to go online and pay for the transaction should reach out to the BRA via email, to check the application status. She disclosed that dedicated individuals would respond to the individuals urgently.
“As a solution, we are working with the [Barbados] Licensing Authority to fully automate the system, so that background checks will be computer driven rather than having human intervention, and in so doing, we hope to alleviate the delays in providing responses in a timely manner,” she stated.
She indicated that the team was working to issue licensing stickers, and encouraged motorists to travel with their insurance or cover note and drivers’ licence, so they could be shown to police, if required.
“We are working with the [Barbados] Licensing Authority to automate this process, as soon as possible,” she disclosed. In looking ahead, Mrs. Lewis-Ward said the BRA had embarked on a heavy training programme for all staff.