A review of Guyana’s tax system would reveal that billions of dollars worth in concessions are provided to individuals through the re-migrant scheme.
But Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram is of the opinion that the current methods for granting and verifying these tax exemptions are weak. The tax specialist told the Guyana Standard that the existing systems need to be strengthened urgently in order to stop the drainage on the state’s revenues.
The Attorney-at-Law believes it may be more prudent to require the payment of all applicable taxes upfront. Ram suggested that applications can be submitted for refunds and subsequently granted once proper audits can be done on the evidence provided by re-migrants. If this is too tedious, he said that the government can replace the granting of tax exemptions with the granting of tax credits. He said that the Guyana Revenue Authority can even implement a hybrid of both systems.
The Chartered Accountant said that the re-migrant programme needs to be evaluated since its current structure leaves it open to fraud and abuse.
But Ram is not the only one who is frustrated with the tax leakages in the re-migrant scheme. Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Godfrey Statia also bemoaned the flaws of the system.
Statia who returned from Jamaica yesterday said, “I agree with Ram that the scheme is a haven for corruption. Only a few days ago I spoke with (Finance Minister, Winston) Jordan about this, you know, half of the people who bring in vehicles are not sticking to the agreement. They are supposed to be here for 183 days and they always leave before. We don’t have the resources to keep running behind these people day and night.”
According to the latest mid-year report, re-migrants got concessions worth $481M for 2017 but for 2018, only $391M worth of concessions were granted. Statia said that this decline is indicative of the campaign his agency is waging against corrupt elements. But the tax chief said he would much prefer a system of tax credits where applicants benefit based on their level of compliance.
Statia said he would be recommending this change for budget 2019.