Richards urges Caribbean tax administrators to be efficient in collection during difficult times

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Tax administrators from across the region have been implored by the deputy prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis to become more efficient in collecting outstanding taxes in the various territories within the Caribbean.

Richards gave the featured address at the Caribbean Organization of Tax Administration 24th General Assembly and Technical Conference held in St. Kitts this week, noting that as the Caribbean continues to contend with the difficulties associated with the global slowdown in economic growth, the obligation remains with regional governments to ensure their citizens can live in stable states that create economic opportunities for individual prosperity and corporate growth and expansion.

“For every state in our CARICOM community has the common goal of creating, maintaining and sustaining an economic and social environment that stimulates innovation, productivity and wealth creation among our people, while at the same time affording us the capacity to provide the social safety nets for the vulnerable segments of our populations,” he said.

Richards charged the tax administrators to ensure regional governments receive the help needed to achieve the common goals.

“As tax administrators, you have the invaluable role and tremendous responsibility in assisting the governments of the region to achieve these goals,” he said. “You are the collectors of our revenue and managers of our revenue systems,”

Richards further explained the importance of taxation and the challenges regional governments face.

“Our revenue streams fund the public goods and services that we consider that governments should provide for the citizens of the state, services that our people expect and that we believe they deserve,” he said. “It is this revenue that provides for health and education; safety and security; transport and communication; and infrastructure and social safety nets.”

He added that he is cognisant of the fact that in the Caribbean community, the base of each economy differs among the member states.

“We are aware that for some of our economies the major sources of revenue have been affected by low commodity prices,” he said. “Some have been affected by international pressures and other sources of income and all of our economies have been negatively impacted by poor performance in international economies in which our market is located.”

The deputy prime minister noted that the aftermath of the financial crisis is still being felt within the region and it has a negative effect on large tax payers turn over and profitability.

“As the lingering effects of the crisis impacts the profits of our larger corporations and tax clients, it clearly impacts our revenue collection,” he said.

He then made calls for more efficient collection among tax administrators within the region.

“It is important for us therefore our revenue streams still exhibit a sluggish recovery, or, in some instances, continue to decline that our tax systems aim for even more efficient collection of the revenues that remain available. We have under taken major reforms in our tax administrations, especially in the introduction of the value-added tax in several other states.”

Richards admitted that while others have more experience in administering the VAT, some countries have only recently adopted this new tax and encourage the tax official to take advantage of each other’s experiences.

“The general assembly gives to you, its administrators, the priceless opportunity to share experiences across the tax administrations,” he said. “[These] experiences … may strengthen the work of your colleagues, not only in relation to the VAT, but as regards to collection of the varying type of taxes and the means of obtaining compliance of your clients. It is an opportunity to discuss challenges and to offer existing solutions. It is an opportunity to develop initiatives together and make recommendations to policy makers.”

He also urged them to pay keen attention to their rankings in the World Bank doing business reports. “As a region, we must try to ensure that we are open for business,” he said. “This means that our countries must have an economic framework to attract and retain investments that generate growth create jobs and make a significant contributions to the public finances.”