Tonight, businesses are questioning whether they are being assessed fairly by the Department of General Sales Tax. This is after a letter emerged from a sales tax employee saying the department managers just want to charge businesses as much as possible, and will use any assessment formula to do so.
GST Officer Elmer Reyes from Punta Gorda wrote the four page letter to the Solicitor General in December. He asks whether the Management of the Department should be allowed to influence the assessments made by the department's auditors.
Reyes paints a very disturbing picture where he claims higher up's in the department have forced him to use dubious means of assessment to come up with the highest GST charge for businesses. He says he argued the point to his superiors, but was quickly shut down - and told to use the method they prescribe - even if he couldn't find it in any accounting book.
But, he says that when that same method resulted in a lesser charge for businesses, or that the Sales Tax Department would have to give a refund, management again told him to change to another method of assessment so that the business would end up paying the maximum charge.
And, the way that Reyes frames it - the business is usually none the wiser, especially if they don't have their own accountant. He says he was instructed not to show them the method used for assessment.
Now, this would account for some serious accounting malpractice in the private sector - and it's very shady behavior for any public agency. But, there are two sides to every story. We did try and speak to the Director of General Sales Tax Ms. Betty Ann Jones, but we were told that she is not in office.
Chamber Calls On Government to Investigate And Regularize GST
But the Chamber of Commerce has heard enough. A release issued today, called "Break the Corruption Chain" calls for the government to, quote, "immediately launch a thorough, complete and transparent investigation into the allegations made by the GST Officer, particularly due to the mandatory and onerous nature of penalties imposed by the Court for failure to pay GST assessments. Any methodology used by the Department of GST in auditing businesses and making assessments must be uniform and fair to the taxpayer as well as the Government." End quote. The Chamber calls for an impartial examination of procedures adopted by the GST Office, quote, "to restore stakeholders' trust and confidence in the GST department." The Chamber adds that to get its increased revenue, government must crack down on those businesses that do not pay GST - and they shouldn't unfairly burden the ones that do.
Chamber Calls On Customs To Tax Contraband Cops
And the Chamber also weighed in on those contraband cops that have been making news. The Chamber laments, what it calls, quote, "the apparent widespread facilitation by Police Officers in the transport of contraband of goods across the Belize/Mexico border." They complain that while the officers involved were charged for an "Act of Prejudice to Good Order and Discipline" and placed on interdiction, quote, "there is no mention that the statutorily prescribed fine of three times the value of the goods was levied against them. These officers were engaged in criminal activity and as such, we demand that they are subjected to the usual and full penalty that would be imposed against any other contrabandista. There can be no leniency when police officers are caught breaking the very laws they are sworn to uphold." END QUOTE. The release quickly goes from sermon to soapbox when it says, quote, " Our nation's economy is failing because of decades of corruption, not just by high officials, but also by those in the public sector whom we entrust with our socioeconomic wellbeingâ€¦.contraband and other forms of corruption weaken our economy and our nation....It is time to break the corruption chain and take our country back from those who would steal it, or sell it out for pennies!" end quote.