More shake-ups loom at GRA

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-as Commissioner General reveals imminent executive staff changes

Coming on the heels of multiple dismissals last month, it seems that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is likely to go through more staffing shakeups as the entity tries to enhance its efficiency.

This was revealed by Commissioner General of the GRA, Godfrey Statia, during a recent press conference. Statia attributed this to the need for revamping the authority’s organisational chart.

“During 2019, you’ll see some executive staff changes. The entire organisational chart would be revamped so that it would provide for more efficient operations. We would continue with the staff rotations and improvements.”

Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Commissioner-General, Godfrey Statia

“For the first time in 18 years, we have been able to put into place a performance appraisal system, whereby employees will be appraised now and on their past performance… that should be completed in March and they will then be in a position to get their increments.”

Statia also spoke of a debunching system that would ensure a level playing field is created when it comes to remuneration for staff.

“We have gone through and done a debunching exercise, whereby staff who have been complaining for years that those who enter with them have been getting the same pay as those who have been here for five, six or 10 years. We’ve gone through that exercise and we’ve remedied that and that is from December 31, 2018.”

Statia also noted that they will continue to provide training for staff. The Commissioner General explained that while a number of Bachelor and Masters’ Degree holding persons are hired by the GRA, there still needs to be specialised tax training provided.

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Shake-ups
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It was only last month that reports emerged of nearly a dozen customs officers being given their marching orders over alleged corruption. According to reports in sections of the media, investigations were being conducted since last year into these officers.

It is understood that investigators had found instances of collusion, including the sidestepping of protocol when it comes to clearing goods. Nor is it the first time reports of a shake-up at the entity emerged.

Last year, there was a reshuffling of several senior personnel in GRA… a reshuffling that touched some major departments including Customs, Excise and Trade operations, General Services and the Integrated Regional Tax Office.

It is understood that for last year, GRA collected almost $199 billion in revenues as compared to the $171 billion that the Authority garnered in 2017. At his press conference, Statia had also revealed that the Authority only projected to collect $181 million for 2018.

Internal revenue is understood to account for $88 million, while Customs and Trade administration raked in $23 million. GRA also collected arrears of $15 billion, but has to contend with a pile of court cases that have stagnated in the Judiciary.

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Guyana Stores Limited
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One outstanding matter is Guyana Stores Limited (GSL), which lost its court case against GRA concerning outstanding Corporation Tax payments totalling over $3 billion. The matter arose in 2012 when GSL refused to pay the money after a notice of demand was sent to the company.

The GSL had moved to the local courts, but both the High Court and the Court of Appeal had ruled against them, and ordered that it pay the $3,807,346,397 in Corporation Taxes. The GSL then moved to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

However, the CCJ ruled that the two per cent Corporation Tax was not a forced loan, but the tax was constitutional. The CCJ stated that the Income Tax Act provides a specialised procedure for challenging assessments, and the GSL should have used that procedure.

The CCJ had also held that the two per cent minimum Corporation Tax was not a loan, because the State does not repay the taxpayer, nor does the taxpayer have any right to repayment or redemption, which were crucial elements of any loan.

However, Statia revealed at his press conference that the company has in fact paid up a large portion of the money and that the two sides are presently negotiating how the remainder will be paid.

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