General Sales Tax Unit checks receipts and shelves
A number of business establishments in the city got surprise visits today from the GST Department and the Bureau of Standards. The spot checks were to determine if the businesses were properly implementing the tax increase. News Five’s Jose Sanchez found out who passed the test and got the reaction from customers.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Since April First the General Sales tax increased from ten percent to twelve and a half percent. The GST unit has been checking on businesses to see that the amended tax structure is properly implemented.
Martin Rivas, GST Officer
“We are out here checking the businesses to ensure the proper charges for tax taxable items are twelve point five percent. We have also included a list of zero rated items we are also checking that as well that those lists are not taxable.”
“How many businesses are you looking at today?”
“Well today we have an estimate to visit about seven of them.”
The GST is not alone in the exercise. The Belize Bureau of Standards is also inspecting the quality of goods and services offered at the establishments.
Luis Cho, Technical Assistant, Bureau of Standards
“We’re checking that their scales are working accurately and their prepackaged goods are weighed correctly and that they are priced and labeled correctly.”
“For a consumer who is just walking into a store and saying there is rice or sugar. How do he/she know it’s the standard?”
“In this case what I would do, I would come to where the basic commodities are and I would select a couple of bags and I would look at the actual net weight. In this case it is marked on the package. And also has a label which says two pounds, this shelf would only have two pounds and the cost per pound. Here they have the cost for what is in the bag which is ninety cents for two pounds. In this case it would be forty-five cents per pound which is correct as is related to the price controlled regulation.”
During the morning, the team had visited Save-U and Bottom Dollar stores. Esther Mortis explained the nitty gritty of the receipts.
Esther Mortis, GST Officer
“A proper tax receipt should have the name of the business, their address, their TIN and the list of the items that you purchased and an indication if they are zero rated or taxable.”
“The receipt in front of you for Save U, does it have everything you are looking for?”
“Yes this is a receipt that has everything. It has the items, the cost and an indication if it is zero rated or taxable.”
“The businesses that you look at do they all have all these items that the customer should find?”
“The ones that have the point of sales system does. The ones that have the cash register we are still working with.”
Consumers are appreciative of the inspection exercise because at the end of the day, it’s their hard earned cash at stake.
“Excuse me mam why do you prefer to shop at this store?”
“I glad to shop at battam dala to get a receipt on weh I pay tax pan and weh I no pay tax pan.”
“Excuse me sir, what is your opinion about the GST department making checks at different stores?”
“As a customer I am glad they are making the checks so we can see what we are supposed to be charged for and how much we should pay.”
“Is this something important for you as a customer and as a family person?”
“Well it is very important so we are not overcharged on items that we are not supposed to be charged for.”
“Does it help you with making your own budget?”
“It helps a lot because the receipt has every item that you have purchased so you see where your money is going.”
“The customer bought Blue King Hand Sanitizer for five dollars. On the receipt it shows the breakdown of how much tax was in that five dollars which was thirty eight cents, twelve point five percent.”
“So all customers should have a receipt that shows the breakdown?”
“Right, if the item is taxable it is indicated with the T and if it is zero rated it’s indicated with the Z.”
Though the Castillo group is up to par, other businesses need to improve their service and technology to show where each spent penny has gone.
“We have a problem with receipts because when the consumer comes in to come and buy, they need to know what is taxable and what is not. We are enforcing that the receipts are properly structured.”
“Should there be a sign to say a sign to say an item is zero rated?”
“Yes, the receipts should have items that are zero rated and items that are taxable should have a little T to the side of the price to show that that item is taxable.”
“If you come across a major infraction, is there a punishment, do you talk to the owner? What happens in those cases?”
“Okay, usually we give a verbal warning, then we give them a written warning. You know there’s always due process in everything that we do. So therefore, after we have done those then we take them to court because one of the things that we ensure as we walk into a store is we make sure that GST certificate is on the wall. The penalty for that is three to five thousand dollars if you are a registered taxpayer and that GST certificate is not on the wall.”
The GST and Bureau of Standards will continue to inspect a sample of businesses throughout the rest of the week. If your neighborhood store pays GST and does not have all relevant information on the receipt, that business should be reported. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.