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Driven to the edge of inanity


shadiasimpson, [email protected]

Driven to the edge of inanity

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Japan reported exporting in value US$68 million in reconditioned or used vehicles to Barbados. However, when Barbados puts up its figures based on the submissions of the persons who imported, the reported value was BDS$30 million. It meant, therefore . . . that there was under-invoicing to the extent of almost $30 million. That is a startling figure. – Chris Sinckler, speech to Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), May 29.
IT SURPRISES me that people involved in high finance can’t seem to do simple arithmetic. If Japan exported US$68 million  worth of vehicles to Barbados last year, surely that works
out to something like BDS$136 million.
If Barbados then allegedly imported only BDS$37 million in said product from Japan, then surely the under-invoicing to which the minister is referring would be in the order of $100 million, not just $30 million.
Be that as it may, it got more complex when the used car dealers struck back. Spokesman for the Consortium of Used Vehicle Owners, Judy Forde, said that the under-invoicing suggestion, first levelled a few weeks back by recently retired Comptroller of Customs Frank Holder, was entirely wrong.
“He accused the used vehicle owners of under-invoicing to the tune of over $60 million,” she said (NATION, Wednesday, June 12, Back Page).
She added that in reality that $68 million was really $75 million when you included insurance and freight but covered both new and used vehicles.
Ms Forde explained that the used car dealers had imported just shy of a thousand vehicles last year to the value of about half what was reported.
At the time of writing (and I was late as usual), I hadn’t seen any comeback from the person who made the first charge, nor any walk-back from Mr Sinckler, who used the said accusation as a key point in his recent speech to the BCCI as an instance of how the private sector gets up to all sorts of tax-avoidance shenanigans.
It was a prelude to his announcement of the coming of the super tax collector, the Barbados Revenue Authority, which will presumably see all and know all.
But despite the minister of finance’s presumed access to all import information, it took some basic research by the used car sellers to debunk this latest myth.
Essentially, the quote attributed by the NATION to a “statistician” explains the apparent mix-up: “The Customs Department assigns tariff numbers to imported items, so there’s nothing called a used car in that context. These figures therefore reflect all cars imported into Barbados, and are not broken down into categories or make of cars.”
You would have thought the former Comptroller of Customs might have known that.
And you would have thought that the present administration would too, or would at least have tried to do a little research like Forde’s people did, before allowing their minister of finance to go shooting from the hip at the used car dealers.
By that I mean getting involved in silly discussions which the most basic checking might have shown to be based on incorrect numbers. Instead, why not announce a sweeping review of all import regimes with a view to making most under-invoicing a thing of the past?
Meantime, Ms Forde’s research also raised a few questions of its own: With both the new and used car dealers spending roughly the same amount bringing in vehicles, how could it be that the used vehicles, which you might think would be cheaper, could only total less than 1 000 units, while the brand new ones totalled over 2 000? For the same amount of money?
“We need to have the truth exposed about what is happening in the Customs department,” she said.
Perhaps Mr Sinckler would like to comment on that next time he is driven to the edge of inanity in his Government’s desperate attempt to look for lost tax revenue, real or imagined.
But, of course, allegations made by a used car dealers’ association may not count for as much as those made by retired Government officials in this crazy world we live in.
The underlying principle that seems to be at work here is that the Government, which has seen its tax increases backfire to produce less tax revenue than before, as the people slow or stop their spending, has decided to look for examples of how it has been shafted in the past.
It will get those taxes out of you one way or the other, apparently.
And while the Dolittle Administration takes these trips down memory lane in search of its Taxation Paradise Lost, citizens and businesses remain stalled on the financial highway with no direction on how to restart their engines of economic growth.

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