As the deadline for the second and final phase of the tax amnesty granted by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) draws closer, GRA Commissioner General Godfrey Statia has disclosed that billions of dollars have been collected as of the end of August.
Speaking with reporters at the sideline of an event on Wednesday, the tax chief said the GRA has managed to collect over $5 billion so far and this figure may increase. He also reminded that this is the last extension that will be granted to the amnesty, while encouraging defaulters to pay.
“Persons had an opportunity to pay their outstanding taxes in the first six months and it was extended for a second time for three months, so why should we continue to extend this? There is a limit to tax amnesty. Tax amnesty should not be given on a yearly basis,” he added.
Statia noted that the GRA is waiving the interest and penalties and not the tax. While he expressed some level of satisfaction with the response from the general public, Statia said he is dissatisfied about the limited amount of persons who have come forward and voluntarily filed their returns.
“What I am dissatisfied about is not the payment of the arrears, but I am sure that there are more persons who should have come forward and voluntarily filed their tax returns. We have not seen a great number of person doing that but those who have done so have made sizable payments.”
The GRA head also asserted that paying taxes is an investment in one country’s progress. He said many persons who have failed to pay their taxes here, pay overseas.
According to him, developed countries are now introducing programmes such as Domestic Resources Mobilisation, where once a person can mobilise their resources by paying their taxes, the countries don’t mind if the individuals invest the rest of the tax income in their countries.
“They are doing so simply because they want to reduce aid to these countries and that is why there is a drive for people to pay their taxes in their home country instead of sending all oversees. You not paying your taxes means you are not patriotic, because taxation is a social contract.”
Statia further argued that while people are always complaining that Government is not providing efficient public services, many of those who complain are not paying their rightful taxes.
“Where would the Government get the funding to provide those services like healthcare, pay teachers, roads and hospitals? We give little and demand much. That is unfortunate in this country,” Statia added, explaining further the importance of taxation to the country.
GRA had announced in January that it would be providing a period of amnesty for delinquent taxpayers. This move by the Authority was in keeping with the measures announced by Finance Minister Winston Jordan in his Budget 2018 speech last year.
Jordan had said that the period of amnesty for taxpayers, both corporate and individual, would ensure they are able to get in order, the filing of true and correct tax returns and payment of their true and correct taxes. The amnesty is applicable to taxpayers who have principal taxes outstanding; non-filers such as persons who are delinquent in the filing and payment.
The Minister said taxpayers who file and pay all principal taxes on or before June 30, 2018 will have all interest and penalties waived, while those who file and pay all principal taxes between July 1, 2018 and September 30, 2018 will have 50 per cent of interest and penalties waived.
At the end of the last amnesty which ended in June 2018, it was announced that $3 billion was raked in, but this number has since climbed. The final amnesty ends September 30.