Labour Movement Wants More Emphasis On Tax Dodgers

As Grenadians earning in excess of EC$36,000 per year prepare to commence paying income tax of 15% on the excess as of January 2014, the Grenada Trades Union Council want the Government to take all measures necessary to ensure tax compliance is not only for public officers, but for all persons who meet the criteria.

Claiming that it continues to be disturbed that a large section of non wage earners, including self-employed, professionals and the informal commercial sector who clearly earn more than EC$60,000 avoid paying any income tax as it now appears on the law book by manipulating the system, the Council said that proper enforcement of the law will see Government revenue increasing.

“Had these tax evaders been paying their fair share of taxes, the Government may not have had to implement these stringent measures,” GTUC president, Madonna Harford told reporters in a news conference on Friday, in which various presidents of the labour movement in Grenada expressed concerns and at the same time offered suggestions as it pertains to the announcement, that as of January 2014 all persons who qualified to pay income tax will have to pay.

Calling for Government to take all measures necessary to ensure tax compliance and to make all and sundry pay their fair share, the unions said that if the proper structure are not put in place, what exists now will be making one section of workers bear the brunt of the “shared sacrifice” which Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell called for in his National address last Wednesday.

In his address, he said that the decision to implement and enforce a three-year home grown structural adjustment programme from 2014 with support from the International Monetary Fund and other international donors, will be a “time of shared sacrifice.”

“Public workers are always the lamb that get the knife to be slaughtered,” said President of the Grenada Union of Teachers Lyon Lewis, who is of the opinion that income tax should affect all workers and not a certain section. “I believe that we should implement a “pay as you earn” tax system so that everyone will make that sacrifice,” he said while explaining that teachers who will be affected will be losing between EC$75 and beyond EC$300.

President of the Public Workers Union Adrian Francis pleaded for Government to allow public officers whose duties and responsibilities are to collect taxes to be allowed to enforce the law as on the books. “We want those in authority to forget about the friendship thing and let the tax collectors collect the taxes,” said Francis, who explained that there are situations where, when tax dodgers are approached all it takes is one phone call and the tax officer has to “leave this person alone.”

“I know that once workers are given a free hand they will be able to collect the taxes, because there are some who can pay, they just not paying, all it takes is one phone call and the collection process has to stop,” he said.

Confirming that they are not opposing the new tax measures, because a Government needs to have its people pay taxes in order to run a country, George Mason, who is President of the Commercial and Industrial Workers Union said that the income measure is almost two decades overdue. “We are not opposed psychologically to the harsh measures, but we are 19 years late,” he said.

As of January 2014, Grenadians earning in excess of EC$3000 per month will have to pay 15% income tax, and Government will also implement new tax measures as it seeks to put structures in place to increase Government’s revenue.

The measure is part of the home-grown programme structural adjustment programme which will was stated will be from 2014 to 2016. At present only persons earning EC$60,000 and beyond per year pay 30% income tax. The new tax threshold will be EC$36,000 per year.

Government, according to Francis, hopes to earn EC$24 million each year. With regards to tax dodgers, Prime Minister Mitchell, who is also the Minister for Finance, said that there will be new policies to deal with persons who are not paying their fair share of taxes.

“Already, Inland Revenue has identified the top 100 tax delinquents and they are being pursued for their taxes owed to the State.  This is not simply a fiscal issue. It is a moral issue,” he said. Without providing the list or names of the top tax dodgers, one top Ministry of Finance official said that professional service providers are among the top tax delinquents.

By Linda Straker

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