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Revenue Authority not working in other countries

Published: 
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Duke tells Couva/Point Lisas Chamber:

Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has continued his resistance of Government’s planned T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA), saying there is no indication of it working in other countries that have set-up such agencies.

Speaking at the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce’s TTRA Merits and Demerits in Couva yesterday, Duke said the authority will lead to workers at the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) being retrenched while creating a greater avenue for political interference in T&T’s tax collection.

In the 2018 national budget, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced Government’s plan to implement the TTRA to take up the powers and functions of the BIR and the Customs and Excise Division.

Citing the inefficiencies in the tax compliance system, Government is seeking to create a hybrid body that would have responsibility for the collection of government revenue and the provision of other services for the protection of government revenue. This includes investigation of tax evasion, the conduct of audits and border protection.

At yesterday’s discussion, former minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne and Senior Counsel Dr Claude Denbow believe that the TTRA was a step in the right direction to improving the efficiency of tax collections.

Browne also said that BIR employees would receive better salaries as the authority’s purpose is also geared at retaining qualified people, who over the years have opted to go into the private sectors where the salaries are better.

But Duke said public servants were supposed to be paid at rates and benefits from working conditions that are comparable to the private sector according to the Civil Services Act.

Based on his research, Duke said the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the International Journal on Public Administration are all aware that the studies done on Revenue Authority lacked information to determine its merits.

His position on the TTRA was supported by financial consultant Ved Seereeram, who quoted from a 2006 International Monetary Fund report that “while there are subjective perceptions among countries with revenue authorities that their model has led to improved revenue administration and has spurred modernisation, there is no objective analysis that countries with RA’s have performed better in this regard that countries without RA’s.”

Duke added that the PSA does not believe that the TTRA will be free from political interference as the Finance Minister would now seize the power of the Public Service Commission to recruit CEO and deputy CEO as the country’s tax collection authority. This power would go to the Finance Minister to make those appointments with the terms and conditions for a five-year tenure being determined by a board of directors.

Seereeram’s contention with the Revenue Authority was whether it would be prudent, given the country’s financial crisis.

With the Government’s inability to fund several of its basic functions in education, healthcare and infrastructure, he said the authority would cost the country a lot of money. He said the Government should be seeking to cut expenditure and avoid inappropriate capital expenditure.

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