NO civic-minded and law-abiding citizen in Trinidad and Tobago will fear the establishment of the new TT Revenue Authority. Energy Minister Stuart Young made this point in his contribution to debate on the TT Revenue Authority Bill 2021 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
"The whole purpose of the revenue authority must be and is to increase the efficiency and the ability of a body to be called the TT Revenue Authority to collect taxes." These taxes are not being collected for the Government but for the citizens, so an elected government can effectively run the country.
Young highlighted the parallel health care system established to treat covid19 patients, among several essential services which must be provided to the population. All services provided to the public by the state must be founded. "Money doesn't just drop from somewhere." Young said tax collection is one source of revenue available to a government.
He dismissed claims made earlier in the sitting by Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo and Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. "Lest the population is not noticing. The Opposition has adopted a playbook of attacking individuals and denigrating people."
Young said the population's support for the revenue authority was reflected in the mandates the PNM received from them in the September 7, 2015 and August 10, 2020 general elections. "It was a resounding beating (of the UNC) at the polls (in 2015 and 2020) by the people of TT."
He slammed the UNC for what he described as its shallow-thinking, thought process or lack of one. "The (UNC) attacks on this concept of a revenue authority. Simply hold no water." Opposition claims that the bill was an invasion of people's privacy where tax information is concerned are ironic
Young recalled an instance in October 2015, when after making a contribution to a budget debate in Parliament about the revenue authority, he received a call from someone who claimed to be a Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) officer, who asked him if he filed his tax returns.
"So don't come here and pretend right now that you did not have your arms here, you did not have your arms there and there is some disappearance." He also recalled the UNC's refusal to support FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) legislation which promoted greater enforcement in dealing with matters such as fraud and money laundering.
Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis dismissed Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh's claim the establishment of the authority would threaten the job security of public officers at the BIR and Customs and Excise Division employees.
The authority is designed to replace both of these entities. Robinson-Regis said, "There is no ultimatum being offered to these employees."
The bill allows for public officers at BIR and Customs to either retire voluntarily, transfer to the authority or remain in the public service. She agreed with Young's points about the authority improving revenue collection and assisting in the fight against white collar and organised crime.