Investigate G.S.T. Department, Chamber Asks Government
News Five broke the story last Thursday of internal complaint in the General Sales Tax Department. A senior tax officer alleged influence by the Department’s management in the outcome of his auditor’s assessment and report. The officer wrote to the Solicitor General detailing how he calculated specific values for collection, only to see his bosses intervene and demand that he change his method of assessment to one that would result in a higher calculation for payment. The Chamber gave us preliminary comment at that time, reminding that the tax system must be free and fair. After further review, in its press release today the Chamber called on the Government to “immediately launch a thorough, complete and transparent investigation into the allegations made by the GST Officer, particularly due to the mandatory and onerous nature of penalties imposed by the Court for failure to pay GST assessments.” Chamber President Nikita Usher said business must not be subjected to arbitrary means of assessment.
On the Phone: Nikita Usher, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry
“When you look seriously at how assessments are done, all the businesses that have been assessed, normally it is very onerous – you don’t have the wish to say when you will pay; it’s assessed, pay and then you can file your complaint later, but you must pay. What is evident from what we have seen from the circulated document, is that there seems to be not a one-fits-all methods of assessment; it seems to be arbitrary in terms of how you feel that day or who the taxpayer is, which is, in our opinion – if such is the case, which we don’t know for certain – if such is the case, we feel that there needs to be some uniformity in that. We also think that the assessment needs to be geared – if you look at our press release – it needs to be geared to those who are not paying as opposed to those who are paying, and you find a fair way to determine what method to use to assess. We can’t afford to have this happening at all, otherwise you will have the same old taxpayers paying being assessed and paying and there those who are escaping; as we said last week, there are leakages which the Government needs to find ways to close up.”
“Can I ask now if the Chamber has received complaints from businesses with regard to paying what they believe is more G.S.T. than they ought to be paying in light of what is out now?”
On the Phone: Nikita Usher
“We’ve had a few cases in the past; none has come with any sort of – to my knowledge – concrete evidence to show; but I suspect that with the opening of this scenario and the press release we are putting out, we are expecting to see much more of this circulating, coming to our offices.”
The Chamber is also calling for an impartial examination of procedures adopted by the GST Department along with implementation of corrective measures so as to assure the business community of the objectivity and fairness of GST audits. It says this is imperative in order to restore stakeholders’ trust and confidence in the GST department.