The Government of Grenada says it will soon institute legislation to deal with delinquent taxpayers.
In delivering the Throne Speech last Friday at the start of a new session of Parliament, Governor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade, used biblical scriptures to indicate to Grenadians that the State need to collect taxes owed to it.
“The Book of Matthew, Chapter 22, verse 21 of the Holy Scriptures commands us all to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”, she told the Joint Sitting of both Houses of Parliament.
According to the island’s first female Head of State, the cash-strapped seven-month old Keith Mitchell-led Government is extremely concerned about the level of tax delinquency in the country and intends to address this issue with strong resolve.
“In our system of democracy, citizens pay their taxes and the Government delivers vital services to citizens. The payment of taxes is not merely an act of compliance with the law but an act of civil duty and responsibility. Moreover, it is a veritable expression of patriotism,” she told Parliamentarians as she read from the speech that is prepared by government.
“Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, My Government is extremely concerned about the level of tax delinquency in our country and will address this issue with strong resolve. Accordingly, a new policy for tax delinquents will be instituted in our country. In this regard, legislation will soon be introduced in Parliament to give legal force to this new policy” she said.
The Governor General called for all taxpayers to pay their fair share in the best interest of the island.
“Grenada cannot continue with the situation where the majority of taxes are paid by a few citizens while many others refuse to live up to their national responsibility”, she remarked.
The Mitchell administration is under pressure from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise revenue as part of measures to be implemented to tackle the island’s high indebtedness to governments, international lending agencies and private financial institutions.
The head of a recent IMF visiting delegation declared Grenada to be bankrupt and uncreditworthy in the wake of government’s decision to default on repayment of loans to foreign creditors.
Parliamentary Representative for St George North-east, Tobias Clement first sounded the warning to tax delinquents earlier this year specifically targeting the nation’s legal professionals and delinquent parliamentarians.
Clement charged that there were persons sitting inside Parliament who owe taxes to the State and this was wrong.
The MP suggested that legislation be put in place to ensure that persons putting themselves up for public office should declare themselves as tax compliance free as a pre-condition for running for public office.
“One should not be allowed to offer themselves for public office if their taxes are not paid. This is a serious question that must be asked and be answered. If we are to go forward, we must develop a culture of paying our taxes”, Clement told Parliament.
He alluded to an estimate from officials in the Ministry of Finance who indicated that Government is owed more than EC$200 million in personal income tax alone.
The government MP charged that there are some people who have not been paying taxes for years and currently owe Government more than EC$500,000 in personal income tax.
THE NEW TODAY has been told that when Clement made his disclosure in Parliament that three parliamentarians including a senior minister on the Government Side owed taxes to the State.
Further checks made by this newspaper that a family owned business by a member of the government was owing the Inland Revenue Department just over EC$200, 000.00 in non-payment of taxes.
During the Throne Speech, Dame Cecile also expressed concern with what was referred to as the lack of ethical standards in some revenue collection agencies of Government.
“These standards must be raised immediately. There will be no safe haven in the Public Service for persons whose job it is to collect Government’s revenue but whose daily dealings deprive the Government of taxes to provide services to the people”, she said.
The Governor General singled out for praise those “honest and hardworking public officers whose professionalism and conduct are above reproach” and encouraged all public officers to follow those fine examples as they perform on the job.
“As part of putting the Nation’s fiscal house in order, our Public Service must do more with less. My Government will continue its current waste reduction efforts, which have begun to bear fruits. Areas of focus include: utilities, fuel, rental of buildings, and international travel,” Dame Cecile said.