Govt focused on compliance as end of fiscal year draws close
With just a few weeks left for the government to make good on its revenue targets, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the coming weeks will be focused on driving up compliance rates.
“You have all kinds of factors that can go into why you don’t meet your targets. What we try to do and what we have outlined in the budget, is that we are going to ensure that we collect the taxes that exist that we do have some control over, the property taxes, the value-added taxes, the customs taxes, these kinds of things that we do have some control over,” Turnquest said.
“To that end we have the Revenue Enhancement Unit, which is now an authorized entity unlike before and we are resourcing it with qualified people who will be able to use some data analytics behind the whole concept, so that we realize as much as we can possibly realize from the revenue lines.”
Last year the government projected it would collect $2.6 billion in revenue for this 2018/2019 fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
At the end of March the government was nearly $1 billion behind its target, having only collected 63.7 percent of its budgeted revenue for the fiscal year.
In the 2019/2020 budget draft estimates, the government is projecting it will come closer to collecting $2.4 billion this fiscal year and $2.6 billion during the next fiscal period.
“We’re also doing some new things in this year’s budget to try and capture more of the untapped revenue that we have. Taxes that are on the books that we’ve never gone after in any aggressive way. A lot of that has to do with the offshore side of our economy, so Bahamians themselves won’t feel that at all,” Turnquest said.
“So, it’s compliance, it’s ensuring that we have the right staff, that we are doing things efficiently and we are making it easy for Bahamians to pay their taxes, as well as to address this growing international and digital economy that is having some effect on our local tax revenue.
“Whenever you start talking about collecting taxes, people get uneasy and the way that we tax doesn’t discriminate whether you’re a high wage earner or a low wage earner. That has some adherent challenges from a public perception.
“I think the biggest challenge that we have is to ensure that we are equitable in the way we apply and collect taxes, and we are seen to do so in a transparent way. There’s also being transparent in the way that we spend the tax dollars. We have to do more in terms of explaining to the Bahamian people about where revenue comes from and how it is spent.”
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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