The leaking and subsequent publicising of the Panama Papers recently, alerted us how widespread tax avoidance and evasion is internationally. Indeed, the scale of it and the personalities involved are quite alarming.
There is no doubt that here in Grenada we have individuals and business entities notorious for their dedication to tax avoidance and evasion.
Not so long ago, during a series of NNP Town Hall meetings, our Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell repeatedly made the assertion that, “Nobody likes to pay taxes”.
Well, this statement is not strictly true; it is a gross simplification, and it baffled and disturbed me greatly. I wondered about his motive for making such a statement. I wondered also whether such a statement, coming from an important person like the leader of a nation, would not unwittingly discourage misguided people from meeting what I consider a sacred obligation.
I don’t think it is too difficult for people to carefully observe, identify and reflect on the plethora of things our government do for us with the taxes they collect.
Furthermore, it is also difficult to discern that taxes represent a large percentage of government’s overall revenue. So, I continue to believe that people should willingly pay their taxes, except corrupt politicians are stealing from the public coffers, or taxpayer’s money is being grossly mismanaged by a government.
So, if for selfish reasons Grenadians dislike paying taxes, it will reveal many negative things about us. It will reveal that as a rule, we always want something for nothing, and that we have a tendency to be dishonest, to steal, to lie and be bad-payers.
It will reveal too that we do not mind being perennially dependent on others athat we are not ashamed to be identified globally as being among the world’s beggar nations.
We would expect that a people who call themselves as belonging to a Christian nation, would not want to be identified with these negative characteristics, that we would be more responsible, honest, rational, selfless and calculating.
However, if we dislike paying our due taxes, it would reveal the type of Christians we really are.
The nineteenth century Sociologist, John Stuart Mills, tells us that there are some basic value, which are vital for the creation of the good society. These include a reasonable willingness to follow rules that are for the public good, recognition of the rights and interests of others, a high level of honesty, and an expectation of truth telling in daily intercourse.
Paying our taxes when they are just, no one should doubt, is for the common good. It shows that we recognise that the community we live in is significant for our development, our sustenance and often our prosperity. No person is an island.
Oversimplification involving issues related to taxes or people’s attitude to paying them will often result in the implementation of inadequate taxation policies or strategies for tax collection.
Over the last two decades or so, we have often been subjected to the political game of indirect taxation, which has had many negatives effects on our government’s ability to meet their domestic financial obligations and also pay our debts.
Oversimplification too, both in our assessment of the status of agriculture in our economy, and our assessment of people’s attitude to it, continue to contribute negatively to our general economic growth.
A government has the responsibility to ensure that its people pay their due taxes. If as our Prime Minister said, no one in Grenada likes to pay taxes, then it is high time that his administration sets up a task force to work on a project aimed at getting Grenadians to pay their taxes willingly with a smile.