The Government has brought more than 300 entities before the courts in an attempt to collect just over $3.8 billion in outstanding taxes.
Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ) yesterday published a list of "delinquent taxpayers" it says are in breach in relation to failure to file returns and outstanding amounts owed on record that have not been settled, including income tax, GCT, PAYE, education and company tax.
According to Meris Haughton, director of communications at TAJ, the move to publish the list was made in an attempt to make both the law-abiding public and tax-dodgers more aware of the department's vigilance in collecting monies owed — acting as a deterrent to the latter.
"There are a number of persons who are of the view that we are not being tough enough. So we are just making public some of the work that we are doing on the compliance side because what we are trying to do is balance (knowledge of) the fact that we have stepped up our education thrust with (knowledge of) the fact that we are also stepping up the enforcement," Haughton told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
TAJ operates 30 revenue service centres and tax offices across the island.
Haughton said the court is "the last resort" used by the tax department to collect money from delinquents. She said the list published yesterday revolves around monies owed between 2006 and 2010.
"When they are not budging, then we would use the authority under the Collections Act to use the court to get persons to comply," Haughton said, noting that the TAJ is "particularly not lenient" with delinquents owing GCT and PAYE because those are "deducted in trust".
"Persons who actually deduct the money and don't pay it over, we take particularly a strong position in respect of those cases," she said.
Though not unprecedented, the move to publish the names of delinquents before court has not been done for a while by the tax department, Haughton acknowledged.
She added that the department is extending an invitation to persons who are having problems paying their taxes to go to the offices and negotiate payment terms.
"We understand that these are tough economic times, but at the same time they have an obligation; if they are having difficulties, come in and negotiate a payment schedule, as they would do with the bank," she said.
The cash-strapped Government last month embarked on an aggressive programme to increase revenues and reduce debt, including the introduction of $16.4 billion in new taxes and a debt-swap deal that shaved an average of two percentage points off interest rates on $860 billion of domestic debt.