Former Minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne has suggested that the Government should move to address longstanding issues in the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) and the Customs and Excise Division before going ahead with plans to replace them with a new Revenue Authority.
In an interview with television station CNC3 yesterday afternoon, Browne, who along with former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira first proposed the authority in 2009, said that he was not opposed to it.
However, he suggested that if issues within the two existing agencies were not addressed they would be potentially be carried over to the new authority.
“The Revenue Authority cannot be a change of name,” Browne said.
To illustrate his point, Browne utilised the example of when the National Housing Authority (NHA) was transformed into the current Housing Development Corporation (HDC).
“The re-branding exercise of which I speak is the difference between NHA and HDC where we took on board literally all of the problems of the NHA at the HDC and we never fixed it,” Browne said.
Browne sought to highlight the importance of the BIR, which is the agency the Government collects the majority of its revenue from.
“Inland Revenue is the key to everything. Inland Revenue is how Government functions so it will make sense to spend money on that as a priority to get it working right,” he said.
Browne suggested that the Government should take the time to educate the population on the proposed systematic changes which the authority is intended to bring instead of simply seeking to have the legislation passed in Parliament.
“There will be issues but what you want to make certain is that the organisational structure and the IT systems work,” he said.
On Friday, the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA) Bill was passed in the Senate with 21 votes for and seven against.
There was one abstention.
The legislation, which does not require a special three-fifths majority, now has to be debated and passed by the House of Representatives.
The legislation has not received support from the Opposition, which has described it as unconstitutional and has threatened to take the issue to court.
Opposition Senator David Nakhid has claimed that it would cost taxpayers approximately $700 million to set up the authority.
In his contribution in Parliament last week, Finance Minister Colm Imbert suggested that the authority would be vital in helping to increase this country’s tax revenue and collection.
He estimated that the country loses close to $5 billion in Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue annually due to issues in the existing agencies.