From The Archives: VAT boost
GOVERNMENT is adding 20 staffers to boost the performance of the VAT Office whose efficiency Prime Minister Owen Arthur says is being hampered by an inundation of false claims.
The increase in the VAT staff complement comes against a welter of complaints from businesses about lengthy delays in getting refunds which they said were having a negative impact on their viability.
Arthur was speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday during debate on a $22 million supplementary resolution that includes $374 308 for plant, furniture and equipment to accommodate the 20 new officers – most likely tax officers and auditors – at the new VAT Division, ICB Building, Roebuck Street, The City.
The funds would also cover overtime and salaries for temporary staff at the privately-constructed Port St Charles’ Customs, Police and Immigration Post as well as arrears of service charge to Cable & Wireless Bartel.
Arthur, responding to a charge by Leader of the Opposition David Thompson that small businesses were suffering most from VAT Office delays, said Government was prepared to go more than half-way in meeting the problems of the private sector, but they must be disciplined.
According to him, one of the problems facing the VAT Office was that it had been overwhelmed by false returns and much of its time had to be spent weeding them out.
The Prime Minister recalled what he said was one celebrated case of a company which sought to fight its refund battle in the media, while claiming it was owed $7.5 million. However, a check showed it actually owed Government $7 million.
Trying to beat system
Arthur said instead of trying to meet their obligations to the VAT Office, some businesses felt they could best use their time trying to beat the system.
There were also those, he added, who held cocktail parties and claimed VAT refunds, while others were claiming on taxes paid in Trinidad and Tobago.
When VAT was being implemented, Government had committed the office to six-week refunds, but only to those legitimately entitled.
The office now says its aim is to fully complete all legitimate VAT refunds within three months of filing.