For GST hard pay businesses, it’s a matter for the Revenue Magistrate
Rowland A. Parks
Every day, the Magistrate’s Court does the business of administering an important part of the justice system. The majority of cases begin their life there. Some are so serious that the faces of the defendants flash across the TV evening news. Some of the cases that are heard involve millions of dollars worth of taxes, and these, inevitably, make the cut for the news.
But there is a category of offenders that is seldom spoken about in the news media. These are the deadbeat business persons who are hauled before the Revenue Magistrate for failure to pay their assessed General Sales Tax (GST).
Some of these taxpayers, who make up an important segment of the government revenues, are usually summoned to appear before the court. Most of them appear when they are summoned. But as with everything else, there are extreme cases. The extreme cases received their summons, but they totally ignore it. In cases like these, the GST Bailiff, Gavin Zuniga, is only too willing to oblige. He and a policeman for the Magistrate’s Court go out and bring in these reluctant taxpayers, where they never fail to make arrangement in court to pay their back taxes.
Two days ago, on Tuesday, a businessman from Hattieville was brought in by the GST bailiff and the police.
The GST Collection and Enforcement section is staffed by two persons - the bailiff, Zuniga, who is assisted by a legal assistant, Jacqueline Meghan. Together these two are responsible for most of the court cases that involve the non-payment of GST.
Zuniga explains that every business which fails to file a return is committing a serious offense. He told Amandala that no one has ever been put in prison for failure to pay their GST. However, there are provisions in the GST Act to actually imprison taxpayers who do not comply with the necessary enforcement.
It is a criminal offence for not filing a GST return. Meighan told Amandala that most of the cases that are lodged in the courts are for non-payment of taxes. Since the GST came into being on July 2006, no one has ever been served with a committal warrant, which would be for three months in the first instance. However, Meighan said that only one person was served with a committal warrant, but before the person could be committed, they came up with the money.
Across the country there are about 2,800 businesses that are registered GST payers. But out of that amount there is a small percentage that doesn’t pay the tax. Meighan said that enforcement and collection are centralized. They are the only two who do that across the entire country.
The GST across the country is staffed by about 68 civil servants. Their main office is located in the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building, formerly the Administration Building.