$79m owed to Water Authority
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.