~ Questions existence of tax inspector quotas ~
PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The taxing of senior citizens pensions and subsequent aggressive collection methods by tax authorities, “is downright criminal and immoral”, while large entities such as casinos are given much more leeway, says Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel.
The MP was reacting to the announcement by Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion that casinos were sent a letter to pay their tax arrears, with no indication of deadlines and/or fines or liens as legal measures that would be applied.
“The government considers seniors, poor residents and small business owners as low lying fruit. Easy to pick and go after with threats and tax liens. While big corporations who can afford to fight the government on tax loopholes and interpretations of what is owed, go untouched or are barely touched. The system clearly benefits the economic elites,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP also questioned the existence of “tax quotas” that has been established for tax collectors to meet on a weekly or monthly basis. He said the Minister of Finance should address if this is true and explain what the specifics of these quotas are.
He explained that reports from within the tax department indicate that productivity quotas had been set in place, to increase collection of tax revenue. This reportedly has led tax collectors to using overly aggressive tax collection techniques. “Having goals is one thing, but when you do not think of the ramifications, you get, for example harassment and pressure placed on the elderly and poor people just so quotas can be met. The Minister must address this issue,” MP Emmanuel said.
He said middle to low income people and small businesses are given “ridiculously low” timeframes to try and pay any tax arrears. “And if they do not, here comes the lien which further makes their lives a living hell. Everyone should pay taxes yes, but the inequality is unfair and in the case of elderly people, completely unacceptable,” Emmanuel added.
The MP acknowledged that the country has great social needs, however, the lack of strong political will to collect taxes from those who have the most, and apply the tax revenue collected to social needs, further reduces the quality of life of lower income people. “In the end it is the most vulnerable of our citizens that pays the price of not having quality public services because you can only bleed poor people and small businesses for so much,” he said.
“Poverty and inequality are not inevitable. Unfortunately it appears to me that the government is not willing to pay the political price of improving the revenue collection of taxes on these big companies. Therefore poor people, senior citizens and small businesses are easy targets to carry the tax system because they don’t have the resources to question or challenge the government on assessments and the like,” MP Emmanuel said.
He continued: “Our senior citizens worked their entire lives hoping for a good quality life when they retire, only to be faced by tax collectors on their miniscule taxed pensions. How do we have the heart to tax our elderly and stand in public and say casino’s got a letter? Small and medium businesses are the backbone of our economy, but we are killing them with pressure and unrealistic timeframes to pay any owed taxes, while tax holidays, tax exemptions and tax favors happens behind the scene.”
The MP said that these unfair and unequal and immoral tax collection practices will be addressed by his Nation, Opportunity, Wealth (NOW) party in the coming months.