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EDITORIAL: About time all self-employed folk pay taxes


EDITORIAL: About time all self-employed folk pay taxes

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IT IS IRONIC that at this time of year when the focus is on giving that there is a simmering dispute between some professionals and their representative organisations and the Ministry of Finance over the payment of taxes.

And while the general focus is on doctors and lawyers, perhaps the two most identifiable professions around, it is clear that the concerns of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that too many of these professionals are refusing to pay their fair share of taxes, or any at all, relates to a lot more than those of the legal and medical fraternities.

It appears that some of these individuals are not happy with the decision of the Cabinet to link the annual renewal of professional licences to the obtaining of tax clearance certificates. To obtain the support of Barbadians generally, these professionals will have to do a far better job of selling their arguments.

To be blunt, unless these professionals, who are considered self-employed, offer us more than they have so far, we have to conclude that there is no reasonable justification on their part for objecting – except perhaps for the argument that for all these years they have never needed a tax clearance certificate to carry on their business.

In good times individuals and societies tend to ignore a lot, and Barbados has had many decades of good times. Unfortunately, we have been battling tough times for quite a while and some of those things that we have taken for granted have become the subject of attention by the state.

But truth be told, in good times or bad, there can be no justification for any working individual not paying his or her fair share of taxes. Every payday tens of thousands of Barbadians at every level of the society live with the challenges that accompany having taxes and other impositions deducted from their pay – even before they get a cent.

Unfortunately, the system being what it is, self-employed Barbadians – whether they be the village carpenter, the top criminal lawyer, the Mercedes-driving dentist, the accountant looking after the books of offshore companies that trade in billions of dollars per week, or the doctor operating on Culpepper Island whose business has declined since the recession started – are trusted to meet the tax man without a third party taking it off at the top.

For decades it has been an open secret that a significant number of Barbadians who are not “directly employed” by one firm or another pay absolutely nothing to the Treasury, but benefit from the system at the same level as the lowly hotel maid or cook. That certainly can’t be fair.

At the same time average Barbadians can point to the many doctors’ offices with prominently displayed signs making it clear they don’t offer credit, recall stories of coconut vendors who boast that they purchased the trucks with which they work “for cash”, or sit in the barbershop and count the number of $20 bills collected every few hours.

No individual in such circumstances should be allowed to get away with this kind of “murder”, not in the current economic circumstances. In fact, we suggest that there is a growing number of Barbadians who should be receiving additional economic relief at this time, but it is virtually impossible for Government to offer them greater assistance when those who can afford to pay taxes just simply refuse to do so.

In the absence of a plausible counter-argument from these professionals, we have no choice but to come down on the side of the minister of finance on this occasion.