BARBADOS GOVERNMENT SAYS IT’S WORKING TO REMOVE TEMPORARY TAXES
Government’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the temporary taxes which were put in place to stabilise the economy as part of the Fiscal Consolidation Programme are removed.
This assurance has come from Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, who stressed that those temporary taxes cannot remain in place. “It is not the intention of the Government to make them permanent taxes because some of them are by nature distortionary, so you have to get them out of the way,” he insisted.
Mr. Sinckler disclosed that Government’s intention moving into 2016, 2017 and 2018 was to ensure the process of removing those taxes was started, while making sure economic balance was maintained, so the country did not fall back into the situation Government was trying to solve.
In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) about the June 2015 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, the Minister of Finance pointed out that while thousands of Barbadians had already received their income tax returns, some were still being dealt with. He said officials were on target to meet this month’s deadline and then they would have to turn their attention to completing the 2014 returns.
“We have had some issues where more than 400 of the accounts provided by members of the public some years ago for direct deposits to be made electronically have turned out to be inactive and the banks have been notifying the Barbados Revenue Authority that they have difficulties placing money into these accounts. These are some of the delays that can occur,” he explained.
During the June 2015 presentation, it was announced that with effect from Income Tax Year 2015 there would be changes to allowances. Mr. Sinckler stated that on average, at the end of the tax year, Government had to look for approximately $85 to 90 million to refund taxpayers.
“So for example, if you collected $200 million in income tax and then you have to give back almost $100 million, then it explains the difficulties you are going to have…We need to broaden that base so less of that income is shielded from tax, but we also want to reduce the administrative costs of having to deal with all of these returns… You don’t want to be waiting six months, a year or 18 months for a return and then the next filing year comes and you don’t get the one for the year before, and of course interest accrues and it becomes an even bigger problem for the Ministry of Finance.
“We want to reduce those problems, so we surmised that we would gradually, over the medium term, move to a stage where if you want to give relief to taxpayers you reduce the tax rate and let people take their money up front and decide what they want to do with it, for example, house repairs or invest in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or an educational savings plan,” he explained.
In his budget presentation, the Minister also said that in an effort to ensure taxpayers were not unduly disadvantaged by those changes, the tax rate of 17.5 per cent would be reduced to 16 per cent of every complete dollar of taxable income up to and including $35,000. He added that the higher rate of 35 per cent would be reduced to 33.5 per cent of every complete dollar of taxable income above $35,000.
He insists that the reduction of tax rates will have a positive effect on taxpayers. “Anytime you are paying less tax it must have a positive impact. People want a lower rate and we agree the rate should come down some more, but in the circumstances that we are in, there must be a more gradual approach because you do not want to reverse the gains made in relation to your consolidation programme and then your deficit goes back up. You want to keep it on that downward trajectory, so you have to ease these changes in. But the commitment of Government is to ensure that the rates come down even more…,” he disclosed.
Mr. Sinckler had also announced that individual professional operators provided for under the registration regime of the Professional, Trade, and Business Registration Act would be required to produce a valid tax clearance certificate from the Barbados Revenue Authority to renew their licences to practise here.
He contended that this new policy was not designed to harass those self-employed people, so as to stop them from being able to practise their profession. “The intent is to get persons who should be in the net paying tax like all of us. First of all, we want to get them registered, because we need to know who you are; what you are operating and where you are operating; and how much you are making. Secondly, once we know that, we want to know how much money in taxes you should be paying and have you pay it. Because again, the broader the base, the less the pressure to increase the rate or even the better, to reduce it.
“And this is what the tax reform is all about, bringing people who should be in the net into the net, and that is why we have that particular policy. Everybody should be paying taxes once they are above the income threshold of $25,000. We are not going to be using the BRA or anybody else to be hunting around Bridgetown or wherever to harass people out of their livelihood just because we want to get a few people in the net,” he maintained.
The Minister urged those above the threshold to get registered now. “If you know you have paid your taxes, you are registered and you are in good standing, you can go now and get your tax clearance certificate. You don’t have to wait until January because the application of the tax clearance certificate is for the previous year, not the year coming,” he remarked.
Mr. Sinckler stressed that if a self-employed person had not paid taxes for many years, then he should go to the BRA, report that and state that he was not in a position to pay all of the back taxes. He said the professional should work something out with the officials at the BRA and then he would be given a provisional certificate, indicating that he is clear to go and conduct his business.
“It says you have gone in and spoken to the tax administrators and worked out an arrangement where you are able to satisfy your liabilities to the Crown, but you are still able to carry on your business. It is not our goal to put people out of business because they have families to support and other debts and liabilities in the society to honour, but to ensure that they participate in the system,” he maintained.
Government’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals were designed to keep the country on a sound footing and spur economic growth, while making sure that each citizen thrives in the process. A few of the proposals may not have been what many persons wanted at this time, but remember, as we make the sacrifices for our beloved country now, we should be able to reap the benefits in the near future.