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. (A. Miller/BGIS)

With the advent of globalisation and the evolution of modern business practices, the Customs and Excise Department is transforming its operations to meet its obligations of protecting government’s revenue collections.

The department, in keeping with its ethos to be a world-class customs administration, has officially launched its VAT and Excise Tax Administration System (VETAS).?? The new system was officially launched by Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, last Friday, July 8, during a ceremony at the Accra Beach Resort, Rockley, Christ Church.??

VETAS would, among other things, allow tax payers to register for VAT and Excise Tax; prepare and file tax returns; update their information and authorise tax agents to act on their behalf.?? It would also facilitate requests for tax clearance certificates; file objections and make certain requests and enquiries.

In the feature address, Mr. Sinckler said the web-based online tax administration system fulfilled government’s vision of making Barbados an "e-country" as espoused in its strategy for Information Communication Technology (ICT).

Given the importance of VETAS to enhancing the island’s competitiveness, the Finance Minister reiterated government’s commitment to improving the business climate, and, ultimately, the island’s competitiveness.

"…This programme is to assist government in its efforts to improve the efficiency of its Customs and Excise Department in order to improve revenue collection; facilitate and expedite legitimate commerce and travel; detect and interdict transactional crime and help improve Barbados’ competitiveness in the global economy.

"I must also point out that this government is committed to improving the business climate and implementing measures which have the effect of facilitating growth and reducing the costs to business in particular, and the public in general," Mr. Sinckler surmised.

Noting that the traditional way of operating business from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. had impacted negatively on the VAT department’s ability to improve customer service for its 8 000 plus registrants, the Finance Minister argued that the move to a 24-hour set-up would allow the division to be on top of the business decision process.

"With time being a crucial input for decision makers and an absolute requirement of productivity, confining registrants to a single space to conduct business is a constraining factor.?? E-Commerce has lent to the efficiency of so many organisations today, as the concept of businesses operating within a constrained time environment, is something of the past," Mr. Sinckler maintained.

He contended: "The design of VETAS leverages on many technologies to offer access and quality service to customers via the web 24 hours a day, seven days a week.?? This will, invariably, present several benefits for registrants with convenience primed at the top of the list.?? Enhanced data capture, information processing and reporting capability, will allow the division to better manage their scarce resources, while greatly improving their decision-making capability."

Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Annette Weekes, said with the rapid evolution of information technology, coupled with the demands of tax payers of ???real time’ information about their accounts, necessitated the need for an upgrade of the existing system.

"The launch of this new system is very opportune at this time because how can we expect the Customs and Excise Department to continue to live up to their

mission which is: to expedite and facilitate legitimate trade and travel; while collecting and protecting government revenue, safeguarding the health, security and economic viability of the nation and continuously providing high-quality services to all persons. How can they realise their vision of being a world-class customs administration that is recognised for administrative and operational efficiency, without appropriate training, using up-to-date equipment and using technologically sound systems?" she queried.

Ms. Weekes said the VETAS would provide a more efficient system and warned that the current economic situation should not be used as an excuse for inefficiency, lack of transparency or accountability.

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Development Bank representative Anneke Jessen, spoke of the importance of strengthening government’s revenue collection and management; while the Acting Director of VAT, Anthony Gittens, gave a detailed overview of the system from filing VAT returns to asking queries on the process.

Further information on VETAS may be obtained by calling the Customs and Excise Department at 467-1100 and 310-2300 respectively, by facsimile at 436-8248 or via e-mail at director.vat@customs.gov.bb.


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