Clarke announces 'biggest buildout of tax offices'
Graduates of the Tax Audit and Revenue Administration Postgraduate Diploma Programme at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Jamaicans will see an improvement in customer service and infrastructure at Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) offices islandwide over the next three years, Minister of Finance and Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke announced on Wednesday.

Clarke, who was addressing the Tax Audit and Revenue Administration Postgraduate Diploma Programme Graduation and Awards Ceremony, stressed the need for upgrading the services at TAJ.

"The period of chronic instability in Jamaica, experienced for a long time, interrupted our development. The pace of the buildout of Jamaica didn't keep abreast with our aspirations and with our needs," he said at the ceremony held at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kington.

"When it comes to tax offices, that is even more acute that the tax offices that were built across Jamaica were built at a time when the needs were different and, as such, in many parts we have tax offices that cannot accommodate the public," he said.

Clarke pointed out that office space and parking spots, especially at rural offices, are inadequate.

"We are saying to them that we are going to engage in the biggest buildout of tax offices over the next several years than we have had in Jamaica's history. I can't do it on my own, but I think with policy support, technical work has to be done by TAJ, the procurement work, drawings, all of the details, TAJ has to do. Get it through the processes and we will make the budgetary space," he explained.

According to Clarke, the Government is already "far down the wicket" with a new tax office at Cross Roads in St Andrew, which will be approximately five storeys and will have a smart drive-through system.

"We want Jamaicans to have a healthy attitude and a healthy relationship with Government and see Government as working for them. We have to improve the interaction with the tax office and the first way of doing that is to upgrade the physical environment," he said.

In September the Jamaica Observer highlighted the temporary closure of the Cross Roads Tax Office in St Andrew due to indoor air quality issues.

The matter led to chaos at the downtown Kingston branch as displaces customers used that location to complete transactions.

At the ceremony, Wednesday, Clarke also noted that TAJ's online platform will be restructured to be more user-friendly.

"The truth is the tax office has done a great job, in that 80 per cent of tax types can be paid online. Yet every end of month the tax offices are overcrowded. There is a message in that. If 80 per cent of taxes can be paid online and people still come into the office to pay it must be that people are not perceiving it as easy enough or simple enough or they don't understand exactly how to do it," he said.

In the meantime, Paul Lalor, board chairman, Tax Administration Jamaica, told the Jamaica Observer that he is in support of Government's commitment to improve the TAJ services.

"The minister has demanded of us that we put together a programme and we are able to show the Jamaican public what we plan to do, how we plan to build them out, what the functionality of those new buildings will look like, how we plan to incorporate the new virtual kiosks, drive-through. We have a lot of work ahead of us to put together these state-of-the-art tax offices around the country," he said.

Commissioner General, Tax Administration Jamaica, Ainsley Powell, shares a laugh with Minister of Finance and Public Service Nigel Clarke at the Tax Audit and Revenue Administration Post Graduate Diploma Programme Graduation and Awards Ceremony at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Wednesday.

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