March 26, 2010
TAX CRACKDOWN - Businessmen, entertainers among 50 high-profile delinquents unable to leave island
Friday, March 26, 2010
THE Tax Administration Services Department (TASD), in a bid to net billions of dollars in outstanding taxes, has resorted to issuing stop orders -- among other measures -- to prevent delinquent taxpayers from leaving the island.
In a release to the media yesterday, the TASD reported that 50 "high-profile" persons, among them businessmen and entertainers, were identified as delinquents and stop orders were being prepared to be served against them.
Meris Haughton, the TASD's director of communications and taxpayer support services, declined to name the high-profile tax delinquents. However, last night, police confirmed that deejay Elephant Man, whose real name is O'Neil Bryan, is among those on the list.
Elephant Man apparently learnt of his tax status when he was refused permission to leave the island from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay Wednesday night for a European tour.
Stop orders are usually issued by a magistrate, but according to Haughton, the TASD has the power under the Jamaican constitution.
"Under the Income Tax Act there is a provision where if there are outstanding taxes we have the authority to issue a stop order to prevent someone from leaving the country until they have settled their outstanding taxes or made suitable arrangements to do so within a given time," Haughton told the Observer yesterday.
The TASD also said imprisoning tax offenders was an option that would soon be implemented.
"Other enforcement actions, including committing delinquent taxpayers to jail, will be utilised in the upcoming fiscal year," the release stated.
In December last year, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in announcing new tax measures in a supplementary budget, said individuals who earn between $5 million and $10 million per year would be required to fork out 27.5 per cent of their earnings in Income Tax, while persons who earned more than $10 million annually would be taxed at a rate of 35 per cent.
Since Golding's announcement, the Inland Revenue Department and the Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department have conducted joint probes of company payroll records to ascertain whether the new measures were being adhered to.
The audit proved that hundreds of companies were lax in complying with the new tax regime.
"So far, examination of 746 payrolls were under-reported by $221 million," the TASD release said. "To date, $119 million of the unreported amounts have been collected, with arrangements made for the liquidation of the balance."
In the last fiscal year, increased enforcement by the TASD has resulted in the indictment of 3,184 delinquent taxpayers who have neglected to pay $8.9 billion in taxes.
Some 818 summonses have also been served on self-employed persons and businesses for failing to pay or arranging to pay their back taxes.
The TASD has also set up a Special Enforcement Team, which works with bailiffs and the police to issue levy warrants which give the department the power to seize and auction the assets of persons and companies that are unwilling to pay their taxes.
Once a report is made to that team and they move to seize assets, the TASD will not negotiate with delinquents, the release said.
Although implementing more stringent collections measures, the TASD is urging taxpayers with outstanding amounts, or those finding difficulty to pay, to make contact with the department to work out a scheduled payment deal.
Since June last year, 136 levy warrants have been issued.