Body established for taxpayer appeals
The Senate last Friday passed legislation to establish a Revenue Appeals Division to hear appeals from aggrieved taxpayers in relation to their tax liabilities.
The Revenue Appeals Division Act 2015 will, among other things, formalise arrangements introduced in April 2011, whereby the Tax Appeals Department started reporting directly to the financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance, giving the department autonomy from the tax administration's directorate.
Previously, the Tax Appeals Department (now the Revenue Appeals Division), which was established some 12 years ago, was not a separate entity from the Tax Administration directorate, as the commissioner of taxpayer appeals reported directly to the director general of Tax Administration.
Justice Minister Mark Golding, who piloted the bill, said based on international practice, it was felt that there should be a separation of the Tax Appeals Department in order to provide for greater levels of independence and a more efficient and user-friendly avenue for taxpayers to seek to settle disputes that they may have with the revenue authorities.
He said the International Monetary Fund in its 2008 mission to review the proposed reform for tax administration, recommended that the Government take steps to separate the Tax Appeals Department from the revenue department. Cabinet subsequently approved the recommendation.
Golding said the move was intended to improve the level of efficiency of the existing process.
"The existing process, though it has been producing fair and objective decisions of a high quality, did not always do so within an optimal timeframe," he said.
The Revenue Appeals Division will be headed by a chief technical director, who will be designated the commissioner of revenue appeals.
appeals There will also be two deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, a head of legal services and other officers in the division.
Opposition Senator Arthur Williams, in his contribution to the debate, raised concerns about clause five, which makes provision for the establishment of the entire department.
This clause indicates that the personnel working with the Revenue Appeals Division shall be appointed by the governor general.
"What is usual in my experience in provisions of this nature is that it would set out precisely the status of those persons so appointed. Are they public officers? Are they part of the civil-service establishment? Are they not part of the public service and what is their status in relation to remuneration and pension rights? That is the usual way that new departments are established and this is entirely missing in this bill," Williams said.
However, in his response, Golding pointed out that there was no unusual status in relation to the employees of the new department, noting that they would fall under the category of civil servants.