Short of a miracle, either the JLP or the PNP will form the Government of Jamaica, and as such will be faced with similar problems collecting taxes.
I think that this is one time that the JLPNP should show their true mettle and ensure tax compliance by all.
The idea of our tax department on the prowl with police carrying high-powered weapons, seizing the assets of a tax-cheating doctor or a deejay should cause even the IMF to be concerned about the way our Government ensures tax compliance.
The Administration should no longer appeal to or wheedle tax cheats into paying taxes. Laws with harsh penalties should be enough to cause them to pay up. I have the following suggestions:
(1) The tax department must be an independent agency: (A good move by the JLP). (b) We need to make paying taxes much friendlier (Taxpayers should not be enduring long wait in lines to pay tax). (c) No religious service at the tax office. Managers down the chain of command should be held accountable.
2: The tax net should be widened: (a) All working citizens and those who generate income in the informal trades must make an annual declaration on income. (b) Real estate: Sellers who make profit on the sale of real estate must pay a percentage in tax on profit made. (c) Landlords/Owners of rental property must now pay tax on income generated from rental. Property owners must be able to write off the percentage cost for renovating such rental property. d) It should be the law that every business establishment -- even the corner shop -- must have a cash register that records sales and must give receipts upon purchases. (e) Tax must be paid on (private) purchase/sale of motor vehicles.
(3) Responsibility of employer: Every person who employs someone or awards a contract for doing work over $10,000 must get the Tax Registration Number (TRN) of the worker/contractors they hire; (a): The employer should -- by law -- fill out a prescribed form that must be submitted to the tax department stating the amount that was paid to the worker/contractor. (This can be fine-tuned). (b) A 10 percentage tax break of the amount should be allowed to this employer. (c) Reward whistle-blowers 5-10 per cent of assets seized.
4: Property Tax: The Government must have a programme to register and title all lands. Where no taxes are paid on these lands the Government must confiscate the property. Anyone found guilty of fraud, and their accomplices, must be sent to prison. I strongly believe that if the Government and Opposition take such a stance we will not worry about tax collection.
5: Imports/Exports: Change the law as it pertains to our privileged importers. They are a drag on the economy. Except for a few jobs, they do not produce anything. They sell their products at high prices and stash their profits in banks as far away as India. They then bawl to the Government. Importers should pay a higher tax rate on their profits and a lower tax rate on the profit they make. An importer who is also an exporter should get a tax break.
(6) Punishment: (a) we need strong, enforceable legislation with teeth that will also serve as a deterrent. Civil servants who are before the court for tax offences must resign their posts. (b) It should be a criminal offence to evade or under-report tax. (d) Trial must be swift and property must be swiftly confiscated and sold to satisfy tax debt. The penalty must be harsh and include fines and long prison terms. (e) Place a travel ban on those who are not paying tax.
Should all/most of the above suggestions be implemented we will ensure tax compliance and the PAYE taxpayers will get a needed break from taxation.
Finally, asking the private sector to come up with a fair tax system is akin to calling for a mongoose to guard the chicken coop.