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Entrepreneur Makes Filing Tax Returns Easier

Published:Monday | June 22, 2015 | 6:00 AMJanelle Oswald
Winston Wilkins

The Companies Office of Jamaica's (COJ) two-month extension amnesty to facilitate the filing of outstanding annual returns, the removal of companies and the closure of business names from its register is fast approaching, with scores of companies still needing to complete their forms.

The amnesty was extended from May 4 to June 30, allowing companies limited by shares to file each outstanding annual return at a cost of $3,000, down from $5,000 or 60 per cent of the regular cost. Additionally, companies limited by guarantee or non-profit companies, will file annual returns at a cost of $1,000 each or 50 per cent of the regular cost. However, once the amnesty has passed, a penalty of $100 charged for each day that the annual return is outstanding, with a maximum fine of up to $10,000, will be reinstated.

Winston Wilkins, CEO and founder of Startup Robot, in his quest to encourage business owners to file on time, told The Gleaner his initiative will help companies, "avoid penalty fees and comparatively large costs for many years of noncompliance by completing their forms on time.

"Staying on top of your taxes, especially your annual returns, is a vital ingredient if you want to succeed in business. If you fail to file your annual returns, you fail to fulfil your legal obligation as a registered company operating in Jamaica."

Wilkins launched Startup Robot last year after completing his MBA in Social Entrepreneurship. He was inspired to set up his company after witnessing countless new businesses failing for not being on top of their 'tax game'.

 

Measuring the economy

 

"When business owners fail to do their annual returns, it creates a ripple effect within the Jamaican business landscape. The economy needs measurement of how industries are performing and how many businesses are participating in the economy, in order for the government, multilateral organisations and financial institutions to determine what support the market needs," Wilkins said.

Highlighting the truth about Jamaican businesses, Wilkins stated: "up to December 2014, there were 86,994 companies on the Companies Register, with 51,755 or 59.5 per cent being delinquent. In addition, 125,846 business names had been registered by the Companies Office, and of that number, 80,424 had expired, but had never been renewed or close.

This is why an amnesty is in place to attempt a clean-up of the records at the Companies Registry; this will not be successful without the participation of the business owners."

Wilkins explained that what makes Startup Robot a cut above the rest is "only the best technology and software programmes are used for our clients, making a mundane process easier and more exciting experience. However, Startup Robot puts customer service ahead of everything else and offers very competitive rates compared to accountants and chartered secretaries".

Wilkins proudly cites 10 reasons why business owners should file their returns with him.

1. Startup Robot is punctual and accurate every time - COJ sends rejections for errors where the typical business owners do not have expertise in filling out complex forms.

2. Startup Robot guarantees you never get penalised.

3. 'Get out' card from jail - business owners have gone to prison for not meeting their obligations as company owners.

4. Startup Robot avoids client's assets being seized or their name being removed off the Register by the government, if their company is perceived dormant.

5. Overseas companies look at the company's registry in Jamaican to see if local companies are compliant in this due diligence process. Startup Robot makes sure your company is presented in the best light.

6. A letter of good standing is the document most banks, government institutions, and investors look for when entering a business relationship with companies. You can only get this document if your company is fully compliant.

7. Up to 74 per cent of documents passing through the COJ gets rejected. Startup Robot reduces your chances of rejection to a bare minimum by helping to check the accuracy.

8. On average, about four hours is spent at the COJ filing annual returns. Startup Robot reduces this time to minutes.

9. Startup Robot has an online portal for collecting data to do annual returns. If your company particulars remain the same, why should you fill out the same information year after year?

10. Startup Robot is committed to providing information that is simple to understand. We continuously revise our processes to keep getting better.

janelle.oswald@gleanerjm.com