Saturday, 01 December 2012 02:30
By Carol Williams
Antigua, St. John’s - Questions were raised in Parliament on Friday about whether the Commissioner of Inland Revenue will exercise his power to apply liens on real properties and incorporated companies owned by defaulting taxpayers.
The matter was highlighted by Senator Lennox Weston, who scoffed at the practicality of the measure and pointed to the closeness of the Antigua and Barbuda society.
“We all went to the same schools and churches. We aint’ gonna sell no home or business or jail no businessman because they don’t pay a tax. So when I see these enforcement measures about lien and doing this, almost everyone in Antigua is related if not by blood, by business, by politics or by school. They’re just mimicking senselessly the first world,” he said.
One of the clauses in Tax Administration and Procedure Act states that a lien will be automatically created on the property of a taxpayer who fails to pay a tax by the due date.
It states that notice of the lien will be filed by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue with the Register of Lands against the title to the real property of the taxpayer.
In the case of an incorporated company, the bill explains that the Commissioner can go to the Companies Registry and file the appropriate documents with the Registrar of Companies. In all other cases the Commissioner should apply to the High Court.
Any affected person can apply to the Commissioner for a release of the property and if refused they can file an appeal in the High Court, according to Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Dr. Errol Cort
He said the bill is weighty, very substantial ,and aims to introduce a more modern approach to tax administration.
Authorities are seeking to repeal the Business Tax Act, the Inland Revenue Administration Act, the Land Sales Duty Act and the Sugar Export Act.
Affected taxes include the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax Act of 2006, Income Tax Act, Insurance Levy Act, International Business Corporation Exempt from Income tax Act, Non-Citizens Underdeveloped Land Act and Personal Income Tax Act.
Senator Cort said, however, that this new bill will not supersede specific tax acts in cases of inconsistencies.
But Senator Weston - a former financial secretary - said the extensive reforms being carried out will make the tax code of Antigua and Barbuda as complex as that of the United States.
“What’s the benefit of all this? We have spent so much time reforming everything. What’s the purpose of it? To extract more taxes from existing businesses that continue to fail? No effort is being spent to expand the economy and to expand your tax base,” he charged.
He contended that the ruling administration is trying to find new ways to exert or to make new rules to collect taxes.
“Here we are designing all kind of complex laws and so on for the local
man. Any foreign investor who comes here now the first requirement is tax exemption for 10 years, 15 years.”
Senator Randolph Beazer of Barbuda, a supporter of the bill, raised concerns about the effect it could have on the Act governing the Barbuda Council.
He said too that the situation on Barbuda regarding the November 1 replacement of the Embarkation Tax with the Airport Facilitation Charge needs to be regularized
“The Embarkation Tax was repealed and there sits at the airport in Barbuda a lady with an inscription over her head “Embarkation Tax: Citizens $50; Non-Citizens $75 up to this day. I don’t think they have gotten the message yet that that tax has been repealed,” he said.
Independent Senator Sylvia O’Marde said she supports the bill in principle but still habours concerns such as why there was no option of appeal if an individual with a complaint does not agree with the decision of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.
She also described as very dangerous and a cause for concern a stipulation in the bill that Inland Revenue can provide information to tax authorities of a foreign country once there is an agreement.
The bill was approved after hours of debate.