Adrian Frater, News Editor
With the parish council losing approximately $300 million in potential property taxes annually and numerous individuals and businesses before the court for non-compliance amounting to billions of dollars, St James appears to be a haven for tax dodgers.
In yesterday's Gleaner, Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) published the names of 168 businesses and individuals from St James who were hauled before the tax court in the March-May period for their failure to pay over taxes, inclusive of corporate income tax, PAYE, education tax, general consumption tax and asset tax, amounting to J$3.5 billion.
"I would rather not comment based on what is published because the accuracy of the information could be in question," said Nathan Robb, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to Robb, based on information that has come to him, he is of the view that some of the so-called delinquents have issues that are unconnected to non-compliance.
"If you should speak to some of the businesses named as delinquents, you will discover that many of them are having issues with the tax department," said Robb. "Sometimes it is possible that people have paid up but their names still appear on the list."
'tax system too difficult'
The Gleaner made contact with several of the businesses and individuals named as delinquents, but except for one woman, who asked not to be identified, they all refused, arguing that doing so might further infuriate the TAJ.
"Our tax system is just too difficult and the draconian style of Tax Administration Jamaica is not making it any easier," the businesswoman said. "Some people want to comply but the process is just too cumbersome."
Despite his reservation about the accuracy of the list, Robb said he fully endorsed the efforts to collect the billions owed to Government in taxes.