THE EDITOR: In his budget speech Finance Minister Colm Imbert promised “…the recruitment of 100 recently qualified accountants and university graduates in a relevant field to support the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) to improve tax collection. These graduates will migrate to the TT Revenue Authority when it is fully operational.
“This initiative is geared towards enhancing our revenue collection through strategic monitoring, impact visits, reviews and audits of businesses. Those individuals who are recruited will be trained within the first two months of their employment.”
Minister Allyson West, in October 2017, in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce of TT, said “…the tax gap is between 11 per cent and 18 per cent, or between TT$12 billion and TT$15 billion.”
In her budget debate contribution, Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services, moaned about fraud taking place in her ministry, particularly as it pertains to senior citizens’ pension and said there was a need for an internal investigation and compliance unit. She did not say how much money was being defrauded over time.
So we see that the Government is concerned about meeting its revenue shortfalls by setting up specialised units in the different revenue collection areas to attempt to close the revenue shortfalls. It should be commended for making the effort, but isn’t there a massive shortfall in the remit of NIS contributions to the NIB? What action is being taken to narrow the gap?
As the National Workers Union stated in a letter to members of Parliament on November 20, 2020, “The annual reports of NIB showed that in 2018, employers were in arrears of over $437 million. In 2017 employer arrears amounted to $565 million. In 2016 it was $383 million.
“In fact, every year employers’ arrears are hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2018, the ratio of employer arrears to contributions income skyrocketed to nearly ten per cent. Clearly, this is a scandalous and obscene situation.”
In fact, according to section 40 of the NIS Act, “An employer who fails or neglects to pay or effect payment of contribution in respect of any person in his employment who is required to be insured under this act, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of four thousand dollars and six months’ imprisonment…” Yet there is no jhanjhat over this issue.
The NIB has a compliance department that is woefully understaffed and that is not geared to monitor and expeditiously deal with errant employers.
Maybe Imbert could lend the NIB some of the 100 “recently qualified accountants and university graduates” so that errant employers can get their just desserts, but more importantly, workers will not be robbed of their paid-for entitlements.
education and research officer
National Workers Union