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West lobbies business community for TTRA support

The trinidad Guardian / Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Allyson West says government intends to establish the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA) in 2018.

Delivering the feature address at a post-budget forum by the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AMCHAM T&T) at the Hilton yesterday, West said they were committed to transforming T&T’s revenue collection process.

Hoping to avoid the issues which prevented the successful implementation of the TTRA in the past, West revealed Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi was in the process of seeking legal advice as government would need the support of the Opposition.

Government would need a two-thirds majority for the initiative and according to West, “To the extent we can avoid it, we will.”

“To the extent we cannot avoid it, we will need to rely on the support of the business and the rest of the community to apply the necessary pressure as you did with respect to the FATCA legislation to get us where we need to get to.”

Responding immediately, AMCHAM T&T’s President Mitchell De Silva indicated his Chamber’s willingness to ensure the TTRA was set up in the shortest time possible as he said, “We understand why this needs to happen. It is not if it can happen, it has to and should happen and we will do what is necessary to get the actors that are needed to pass the legislation to do what has to be done. We don’t have a choice and that is our reality.”

West said a team was already working on the TTRA’s set-up and she is confident it would be completed within the stipulated time frame.

Asked how the TTRA would capture revenue from the informal sector, West said, “The TTRA already has at its disposal quite a wealth of information or the ability to collect a wealth of information to identify the non-compliant.”

The informal sector includes food vendors, doctors, attorneys, insurance professionals, taxi drivers, carnival band producers, entertainers and sportsmen.

West was unable to say how much revenue could be garnished from the informal sector which would also include persons engaged in the illegal sale of narcotics, prostitution, arms and ammunition trafficking, and PH drivers.

Asked how these persons would be categorised in the national tax bracket, West said, “The tax legislation does not distinguish between legal and illegal activity. It can tax both. The challenge would be identifying those people to bring them on the tax regime.”

Asked about the calls by stakeholders in the Gaming Industry for government to reconsider increasing the taxes across the sector as it would result in massive job losses, West said no.

She said, “Government has been concerned for quite some time about the fact that as a general rule, persons involved in this sector do not contribute in any significant way to the public coffers.”

“While we get to the place of introducing the Gaming Commission and the proper systems are put in place, I think the provisions announced by the minister are going to go forward.”

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