Politi­cians have no pas­sion for tax col­lec­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE EDI­TOR, Sir:

ON MON­DAY, Septem­ber 26, the Caribbean Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute (CaPRI) hosted yet an­other fo­rum – this time a de­bate of the Ja­maican pathol­ogy of tax non-com­pli­ance.

It would have been grossly naive, though, of any­one who at­tended to have en­ter­tained prospects of so­lace from any rec­om­men­da­tion about the Ja­maican au­thor­i­ties’ un­will­ing­ness to en­force tax com­pli­ance in all earnest­ness.

So, play­ing the role of good host, CaPRI es­pe­cially lauded the sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts made by Tax Ad­min­is­tra­tion Ja­maica (TAJ) in this re­gard.

This well-de­served com­men­da­tion for TAJ, though, made for a very in­ter­est­ing re­sponse that en­sued from the au­di­ence: Is the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal direc­torate will­ing to en­force tax com­pli­ance in all earnest­ness?

Among the gal­lant ef­forts made by the TAJ are the amal­ga­ma­tion of NIS, NHT and Ed­u­ca­tion Tax; the in­tro­duc­tion of new in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment sys­tem; a new busi­ness reg­is­tra­tion ‘Su­per Form’, and a slew of other mea­sures, in­clud­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme and en­force­ment. These ef­forts have been to the ex­tent that in 2015, 56 per cent of sur­vey re­spon­dents said they ac­tu­ally FILED in­come taxes com­pared to 81 per cent who in­di­cated that they IN­TENDED to file in 2016!

Yet, the re­al­ity that ob­tains is an ES­TI­MATED 40-80 per cent in­for­mal­ity in Ja­maica’s econ­omy! Lit­tle won­der, too, that IMF es­ti­mates the com­pli­ance gap for gen­eral con­sump­tion tax (GCT) to be be­tween 23 and 33 per cent of po­ten­tial GCT rev­enues. So, not sur­pris­ingly then, it was ob­served by the fo­rum that the phi­los­o­phy of ‘lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively to what is be­ing said, but more so to what is not be­ing said’ should ap­ply to our be­lea­guered tax sys­tem. That is to say, our politi­cians de­clare how in­ter­ested they are in rem­e­dy­ing this prob­lem, yet by their very pal­pa­ble deed, it is quite the op­po­site.

PUT TO GOOD USE

Our politi­cians pos­sess the ad­van­tage in this area. They are the first line of rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the Ja­maican tax­payer. Politi­cians en­cour­age and in­cen­tivise in­di­vid­u­als, in per­son, to vote, yet they NEVER do the same in cham­pi­oning the cause for tax com­pli­ance.

Politi­cians col­lect and spend tax­payer dol­lars, yet they sel­dom demon­strate to tax­pay­ers that their hard-earned dol­lars are put to good use. Politi­cians them­selves have a bad rap for non-com­pli­ance, eva­sion and not mak­ing timely dec­la­ra­tions so as to pay their eq­ui­table share of taxes.

There is no mo­ti­va­tion, there­fore, for the few com­pli­ant tax­pay­ers to con­tinue pay­ing, or for the non-com­pli­ant to com­mence pay­ing. The in­de­fati­ga­ble ef­forts of the TAJ will be of no avail un­til our politi­cians ex­plic­itly demon­strate, with good in­ten­tions, a will­ing­ness to col­lect tax rev­enue, even at the sac­ri­fice of their votesx E.L. JO­HANN WALKER yesjo­hanna@ya­hoo.com

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