$79m owed to Wa­ter Au­thor­ity

UK Barbados Nation - - NEWS - RYAN STRAUGHN By MARIA BRAD­SHAW mariabrad­[email protected]­tion­news.com

SOME BAR­BA­DI­ANS are smil­ing all the way to the bank af­ter re­ceiv­ing close to $25 mil­lion in in­come tax re­funds over the last three weeks.

They are the first to ben­e­fit from Gov­ern­ment’s pay­ment of 2017 tax ar­rears to in­di­vid­ual tax­pay­ers that should have been paid since Oc­to­ber.

Mak­ing the an­nounce­ment, Minister in the Min­istry of Fi­nance Ryan Straughn told the House of Assem­bly last week that Gov­ern­ment would be work­ing to set­tle the $116 mil­lion in per­sonal in­come tax ar­rears due to cit­i­zens from be­tween 2008 and 2016, “over the next three years”.

Straughn said there was still ap­prox­i­mately

$96 mil­lion in ar­rears owed to cor­po­ra­tions,

$23.8 mil­lion in re­verse tax credit ar­rears, and

$102 mil­lion in VAT ar­rears, all of which would be ad­dressed in the fu­ture. But he said cau­tion had to be ex­er­cised at this point as Gov­ern­ment needed to mon­i­tor and stay on top of its cash re­serves.

The aim, he ex­plained, was that as Gov­ern­ment em­barked on the Bar­ba­dos Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery and Trans­for­ma­tion plan, it would con­tinue to work on re­build­ing the trust of Bar­ba­di­ans by re­turn­ing the ex­cess monies they had paid in taxes.

Only the 2017 re­funds could be paid at this stage as Gov­ern­ment tried to stay cur­rent and to avoid build­ing up any more ar­rears, the minister said.

Lead­ing off de­bate on the In­come Tax (Amend­ment And Val­i­da­tion) Bill 2018, he said that in the next phase Gov­ern­ment would be set­tling the re­verse tax credit re­turns for 2017.

How­ever, he made an ap­peal to tax­pay­ers with ar­rears to Gov­ern­ment for the in­come years be­tween 1968 and 2000 to take ad­van­tage of the cur­rent tax amnesty, which ex­pires on De­cem­ber 31.

That amnesty was granted by Prime Minister

Mia Amor Mot­t­ley in the June 2017 Mini-bud­get, waiv­ing all in­ter­est and all penal­ties due. Straughn said as Gov­ern­ment looked to re­form the whole sys­tem of in­come tax in Bar­ba­dos, it was nec­es­sary to start with a clean slate.

He ad­vised Bar­ba­di­ans to reg­is­ter with the Bar­ba­dos Revenue Au­thor­ity’s new tax sys­tem called TAMIS (Tax Ad­min­is­tra­tion Man­age­ment In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem). (GC) THE BAR­BA­DOS WA­TER AU­THOR­ITY (BWA) was forced to go af­ter mil­lions of dol­lars owed by cor­po­rate debtors to pay re­trenched work­ers in cash in­stead of bonds.

Bar­ba­dos Na­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that the BWA was able to col­lect more than $3 mil­lion from busi­nesses, in­clud­ing ho­tels and restau­rants as well as ma­jor res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments on the South and West Coasts.

The funds came at a crit­i­cal time since the util­ity com­pany does not sub­scribe to the Sev­er­ance Pay­ment Fund, and would have had to pay the laid off work­ers in bonds.

Chair­man Leodean Wor­rell con­firmed the sit­u­a­tion, point­ing out that they had to find money to pay the 75 work­ers who were re­cently sent home.

“With re­gard to the re­trench­ment process, when we as a board were ad­vised that the BWA is not a con­trib­u­tor to the Sev­er­ance Pay­ment Fund and as such those staff be­ing re­trenched would have to wait un­til April to re­ceive sev­er­ance pay­ments in the form of bonds, we de­ter­mined that it was nec­es­sary to change course and ac­cel­er­ate our fo­cus on the re­ceiv­ables,” said Wor­rell, an at­tor­ney-at-law.

“To that end, we re­quested of the man­age­ment a list of the top 100 cus­tomers in­debted to the Wa­ter Au­thor­ity and fo­cused on col­lect­ing those funds. Suf­fice it to say, cor­po­rate Bar­ba­dos was and re­mains the largest debtor. We do, how­ever, ac­knowl­edge and thank those who were dis­con­nected and paid and those who found their cheque books when our teams came to dis­con­nect and thereby averted a dis­con­nec­tion.”

She re­vealed that the col­lec­tion drive would con­tinue in earnest to rake in the $79 mil­lion owed to the BWA, the ma­jor­ity by cor­po­rate Bar­ba­dos.

Pleased with re­sponse

“The BWA has made it very clear of its in­ten­tion to col­lect ar­rears from all our cus­tomers. We have been very pleased with the re­sponse of our res­i­den­tial cus­tomers who have been com­ing in to pay their bills or ar­range a pay­ment plan. Un­for­tu­nately, there are a num­ber of com­mer­cial cus­tomers who owe con­sid­er­able sums of money to the BWA and have not come in to talk with the BWA and ar­range a pay­ment plan. As I have pre­vi­ously in­di­cated, the BWA will ex­er­cise its le­gal rights and dis­con­nect such en­ti­ties.”

In re­la­tion to in­for­ma­tion re­ceived by this news­pa­per that the BWA was also in­ves­ti­gat­ing sev­eral of il­le­gal con­nec­tions by some cor­po­rate en­ti­ties which had been dis­con­nected, Wor­rell also con­firmed this sit­u­a­tion but de­clined to elab­o­rate.

“Yes, I am aware that there have been cases where our (cir­cled) teams have gone to dis­con­nect ser­vices which are in ar­rears and they have dis­cov­ered il­le­gal con­nec­tions. We have ac­tively com­menced pur­suit of cor­po­rate cus­tomers who owe BWA a tremen­dous amount of money and in so do­ing we have found there have been quite a num­ber of il­le­gal con­nec­tions.

“It is to be noted that the

BWA takes se­ri­ously such il­le­gal con­nec­tions and will en­sure that all per­pe­tra­tors of such il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity will face pros­e­cu­tion.

She added: “The BWA con­tin­ues to re­main fo­cused on pro­vid­ing a sus­tain­able source of wa­ter for all Bar­ba­di­ans and we as a board recog­nise that our obli­ga­tion is to the peo­ple of Bar­ba­dos.”

The Bar­ba­dos Na­tion un­der­stands that work­men from the BWA have for the past two weeks been busy at a ho­tel which was dis­con­nected for non-pay­ment of close to $500 000, but was still re­ceiv­ing wa­ter.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der­way to de­ter­mine the source of the sup­ply.

The BWA is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the dis­cov­ery of a waiver pro­vided to an­other ho­tel which owed close to a mil­lion dol­lars in ar­rears. Three quar­ters of that sum was ap­par­ently writ­ten off by the pre­vi­ous dis­pen­sa­tion.

(FP)

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