GRA set to rake in $135.3 billion in taxes for 2014

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Commissioner General of GRA, Khurshid Sattaur
Commissioner General of GRA, Khurshid Sattaur

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has its sights set on collecting $135.3 billion in taxes for the 2014 fiscal period, Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur said during a press conference on Tuesday, April 29.

`The GRA Head said that this year, his staffers will increase their efforts to have tax payers honour their commitments voluntarily.

“Expect a lot of that from me, to engage in sensitizing the public, putting out public notices, holding more workshops, having more educational programmes, you’ll see much more of us, we’ll be more visible this year to ensure that people understand and honour their obligations more voluntarily.”

Among recently introduced innovations, is online banking, which is intended to facilitate payments in a more convenient manner. This new facility has not been utilised as expected thus far by tax payers according to Sattaur, despite many of them previously requesting this type of service.

“Now that we have it here, the poor showing suggests that the tax payers were maybe playing games with us. We’ve only had about 50 transactions so far with remote services provided to tax payers. It is either through the telephone, they can call in, having set up their account of course, call in to Republic Bank or they can go online to Demerara Bank and make their respective payments for any taxes. We’ve had just two persons doing that, I happen to be one of them”.

A money transfer facility operated with support from Western Union has had a little more success, Mr. Sattaur stated with 50 persons using this service.

Despite these setbacks, Sattaur said the GRA is still persevering with its efforts.

“We’re going to bring GBTI and Scotia Bank on board very shortly. There was total lack of interest on the part of Citizen’s Bank and Baroda. These other banks, we’re working with them, hopefully soon we’ll have engagements with them, through agreements. There’s a little cost involved, not more than a $100 per transaction, some of it we will bear for the tax payer”.

Looking forward to the future, the GRA head said that very soon, tax payers will not be required to file returns physically. They will have to utilise the online services as a contract has already been signed to facilitate this feature described by him as “a major accomplishment”.

He added that no less than 250,000 people would be expected to file their income tax returns, electronically online. Customs declarations will also be done online, he said.

It is estimated that those who are in the wealthiest bracket of society, particularly the self employed, are only paying approximately 25% of what they should actually pay, according to the GRA Commissioner General, and the agency is continuing its efforts to ensure that this.

“Hard to tax” group pays their fair share, “You have to do a lot of enforcement activities, take them to court, order them etc”. Audit and verification exercises have been very successful according to Sattaur, along with the efforts of the GRA’s Debt Management Unit which realised more than $8 billion in revenues from their work.

He also praised his Public Relations Department for educating the public about their obligations and the benefits of ensuring that their tax obligations are fulfilled, describing their work as “very vital”.

Several companies are currently before the courts for tax evasion and the GRA head made it clear that their employees and business associates need to be aware of the perils this could result in.

April 30, 2014 is the deadline for tax payers to file their income tax returns.

[Extracted and modified from GINA]

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