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BRA boosting online options as more taxpayers opt for online payment

Stories by Marlon Madden

The Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) is hoping that greater use of digital platforms will help with compliance as it seeks to collect the over $1.5 billion owed by taxpayers.

On Monday, local tax officials joined their counterparts from across the Commonwealth in the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) senior leadership programme.

Speaking with reporters on the sidelines, Revenue Commissioner at the BRA Louisa Lewis-Ward said in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of individuals opting for online payment

As such, she said, the BRA was keen on continuing its buildout of digital services.

“Significant numbers of taxpayers we have seen over the last three years, maybe up to about 60 to 70 per cent, have shifted from joining lines to paying and obtaining services on the various platforms. So it means that is what taxpayers want. They want ease of business, they want fluidity in business, they want to be able to make changes in their tax returns and tax forms easily. So we are building the platforms to allow them to do that,” said Lewis-Ward.

The latest of such platforms is the land tax bills and payment portal which was launched on August 26.

Lewis-Ward said it has been “working
very well” so far, with both overseas and domestic payments being made through that system.

“It is part of the initiative to upgrade systems to make it easy to build public trust, make it useful for taxpayers so that you’re not standing in long lines. For those of you who think that you still need to stand in a line, that is not necessary any longer. So you can go online and do things related to licensing, vehicle registrations, and paying for weight certificates. You can go online to the TAMIS system and you can pay your VAT, corporate tax, personal tax. So it is all part of an overall initiative to improve services and practices,” she said.

“It has allowed us to drive significant compliance programmes. As you know we talk about refunds quite often, but taxpayers also owe the Authority [about] $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion. So, therefore, the enforcement capacity has to be there to collect. 

“What we have seen is significant compliance from large and medium-sized taxpayers alike. So we welcome the initiative and we put together teams who meet with large taxpayers on a regular basis to make sure that the compliance is there so that the Government can collect revenues to allow us to do the social spending that we want to have at the end of the day,” she added.

The BRA is expected to start paying some of the reverse tax credits and personal and corporate tax refunds in the last quarter of this year.

Addressing the CATA opening ceremony at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Lewis-Ward acknowledged that in driving required change in tax administration within any jurisdiction, there had to be a “delicate balance between revenue collection and easing the burden on citizens and businesses”.

“Leadership in tax administration, however, is not merely about managing numbers and enforcing compliance. It is about guiding a team towards a shared vision of economic growth, social justice and fiscal responsibility. It is about fostering organisational culture of transparency, accountability and integrity,” she said.

“When our team sees us demonstrating integrity, accountability, fairness and dedication to the public good, they are more likely to behave similarly, creating and maintaining a culture of ethical and operational excellence.”

She pointed out that changes relating to tax policies on the global arena in recent years “have called for sharp and swift pivoting, innovation and strong strategic management of limited resources”.

“There was and still remains little time for lengthy deliberation and slow-to-market ideas. Stakeholders are demanding more agile services, delivered in real time with credible results. We will only be able to meet these demands as a workforce that embraces innovation and change at the pace at which they are needed,” Lewis-Ward said.

The CATA senior leadership programme is designed to, among other things, explore strategies for enhancing leadership processes and driving positive change. 

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