Tax evaders ‘costing country millions’

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Millions of dollars were lost to public coffers last year due to tax evaders – despite what Prime Minister Gaston Browne has described as record economic growth in 2019.

 During Thursday’s budget presentation, Browne said total revenue and grants to the government last year amounted to $847.5 million – a decline from $859.2 million in 2018.

 He attributed the bulk of the $11.7 million dip to lower tax revenues. Browne also pointed out that in 2018, tax revenue was $679.6 million, but it declined to $672 million in 2019.

 “Alarmingly, although our economy is the second largest in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and it enjoyed far higher growth than most, our tax to GDP ratio is the lowest, at 16 percent.

 “Other economies that grew at a much slower rate, and are much smaller than ours, had tax to GDP ratios above the Currency Union average of 20 percent and some even collected more revenues than we did in nominal terms,” Browne said.

He had harsh words for those who dodge taxes like ABST.

“Those who do not pay their fair share of taxes are depriving the country and its inhabitants of the economic and social infrastructure and services they need.

“Such behavior is unfair and unjust,” Browne said.

 He insisted that the government cannot spend money it has not received and without revenues “we cannot build roads, deliver water, and supply other critical services if taxes are not paid”.

 Consequently, the PM reiterated his stance that new measures will have to be implemented to ensure tax compliance and revenue collection.

 Among the measures outlined is the introduction of legislation for the recovery of outstanding taxes, particularly ABST, property tax and corporation tax.

There will also be a “user-friendly and interactive” Inland Revenue Department (IRD) website launched to enable people to make e-payments.

The latter has been welcomed by local business owners who said they were delighted at the prospect of being able to file and pay their taxes online.

 Carissa Warner, of C Warner Design, said this would save her a lot of time.

 “I went to IRD this week and I waited 20 minutes just to get a receipt because the printer was down and that made me late for a meeting which was a major inconvenience,” she said.

 Owner of Luxury Locations Real Estate in Jolly Harbour, Nadia Dyson, explained, “It would be great because I would never have to spend hours in a queue in St John’s to pay my taxes and IRD would have a computerised copy of my receipts so I would not have to walk with faded copies.”

 It is unclear when the e-filing system will come onstream and what services will be available. OBSERVER has tried without success to get further clarification from IRD officials.

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  1. Hard to figure how this computes with the budget figures released earlier.$1.7 Billion spending with a $14 million surplus but declining tax revenues. Read the articles by Elisha George on 1/24, then the article by Theresa Goodwin on 1/25 and these numbers seems bogus. Third paragraph of George’s article begins ” the increase in revenues”, there is no increase in revenues, she means the increase in projected spending, the Prime Minister says that tax evasion is a problem, and collected taxes are declining, in fact my quick calculation says that collected taxes will be no more than 50% of projected spending. What is this one billion plus principal payment that is being excluded in the budget figures? does the government have a payment of one billion dollars that is due, if the country’s debt is over a billion dollars all of it is not due at the same time, what should be included is the payment that makes the debt current for that fiscal year. Please just print the budget , that is projected revenues from all forms of taxes plus anticipated contributions, then line item spending by departments and agencies, and we will figure it out.

  2. Mr. Prime minister, how about the tax evasion on the acre of land purchased at Long Bay that remained under the seller’s name until it was flipped and sold to another buyer, will the treasury recover that evasion ?

  3. Not paying taxes is bad, and if anyone is stealing some of the taxes paid, he or she is just as bad. Any avenue used for cheating should be closed.

  4. While you are on the tax evasion mission Mr PM, now might be a good time to look into the atrocities been put on so many Antiguans BY Clico and British American Insurance companies. These companies were given authorization by the Antigua government to operate, knowing the monies they took from their insured, were sent to their home offices in Barbados and Trinidad. How was this allowed without an escrow account in Antigua in the event something going wrong. Now these companies are able to close their offices and sneak out of the island, like a thief in the night. No accountability by any of their higher ups and no resistance or investigation by the Antigua Government. Imagine what a boost it would be, not only for the many citizens that has lost so much, but also to the economy. I am baffled by the silence of this government,. about this entire scam on its citizens.I am not singling out any particular PM,, because this has been going on for many years. So in summation my question is ” Can someone in control of the government stand up and fight for all these good people, who has been severely taken advantage of?’

  5. Mr. Prime Minister, the customs and excise $160,000 and $3,000,000 affect revenue, similarly is the $250 reduce to $80.00 e-book licensing in the ministry of education and they were publicized by you


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