Our Readers' Opinions
May 27, 2016
An open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I have heard you on more than one occasion commenting on an amount of more than $200 million in taxes owed to the St Vincent Government. This delinquency has been outstanding for many years, and it seems as though the authorities have done little to correct this most unsatisfactory state of affairs. Moreover, our Inland Revenue Department seems impotent and completely incapable of effectively tackling this matter. How could we proceed year after year not collecting those tax arrears? Doesn’t the Government have scores of projects to which those funds could be put to productive use?{{more}}

My understanding is that many professionals and private businesses are extremely serious offenders. As a result, they are retarding the country’s progress, and their prolonged delinquency does continuous harm to our brittle economy. There are situations where business owners are paying less in taxes (or a lower per-centage) than their secretaries. How atrocious is that!

There are even companies which have deducted PAYE from their employees’ salaries, and have retained millions in VAT deductions, but have not paid them to the Government. In fact, I believe they have even used these funds (theft), which is a criminal act, since they are only held in trust.

Even though the Inland Revenue Department has an attorney on staff, it might be true to say the department has turned a deaf ear to reason. Such a situation not only makes your consistent efforts at national and economic development more difficult, but also encourages rotten attitudes which affect and impact society negatively.

I do not claim to have the answer to this or any particular problem, but let me float this as a possible solution:

Add a 10 per cent legal or collection fee (penalty) to the outstanding sums (10 per cent of $200 million = $20 million) and pay it to a selected panel of law firms (I suggest five) should they collect the respective outstanding amounts within 12 months. These law firms should be empowered to legally seize motor vehicles and other assets, place liens on property, accept repayment terms, and arrange for loans from banks for the deadbeats, with repayment made monthly directly from their bank accounts. One of these firms should be foreign, since they would be less partial in handling ticklish situations a local firm may be reluctant to pursue.

Obviously some legislation would be required, but that, of course, is your forte. It would be presumptuous of me to “tell you” what to do, but I am simply sharing a suggestion which I hope could help, or assist in spawning additional ideas.

Mr Prime Minister, I have made this letter an open one, since it is my goal to focus public attention on a dysfunctional department. This is done in an effort to retrieve that tremendous amount of money which our country desperately needs at this point in time.

Respectfully yours,

Horace Williams