EDITORIAL: Uneven yoke with tax burden
THE FURORE OVER the Value Added Tax (VAT) which surfaced recently should have died down, given the forthright comments of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that this form of taxation is here to stay. The opposing position of Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell will not gain currency.
While Minister Sinckler must be commended for curtailing valued time and energy in debating a non-issue, he needs to be as pointed and explicit in dealing with more fundamental tax issues. We speak of the effective collection of the said VAT and all other revenues due Government which must be a matter of concern not only for the Freundel Stuart administration, but all citizens. The debate at a national level must be about how best to go after tax evaders which successive governments here have promised but failed to pursue.
If VAT is seen and regarded as the most efficient stream to generate revenue, then there must be efficient management of the system. The same applies to the collection of National Insurance contributions as well as land taxes. The huge amounts owed Government in both direct and indirect taxes suggest that taxation measures are never popular or easily implemented.
Many Barbadians feel that they are woefully overtaxed. This is particularly true of salaried workers who must pay their fair share of taxation through direct deductions. It is unreasonable to ask one group of workers to carry the bulk of the burden. It is also wrong to allow businesses to continuously ignore any compliance with their statutory obligations.
This has resulted in an uneven yoke when it comes to the tax burden in this country. There are large numbers of professionals, incorporated businesses and numerous self-employed business people who do not pay their fair share of taxes. Of those hundreds of millions owed Government for VAT, land taxes and outstanding NIS contributions, it is very likely that most of this money may never be collected given the financial inability of some corporate entities to pay over what they have already collected and the genuine difficulties some individuals are encountering. A bad situation has been made worse by the poor example set by some state-owned agencies which are also delinquent in their payments.
In these very difficult economic times, there must be sacrifice by all. No individual or corporate citizen must be allowed to escape their responsibilities.
We ought to have as our guide the approach of the Internal Revenue Service of the United States. It does not let up in going after tax avoiders, big or small, and often ensures the law courts institute punitive action.
The recently established Barbados Revenue Authority and the National Insurance Scheme must spare no effort in executing their statutory duties. Not even in these very difficult economic times.