Ten points to note about Jamaica Tax Law
1. There is no legal time limit on the right of the collector of taxes (CT) to pursue a taxpayer for the recovery of unpaid taxes, but such taxes only become payable on assessment, that is, whether upon the filing of returns or, on assessment by the commissioner. Such assessment must be completed within six years of the year in which the taxes are accrued.
2. If a taxpayer proves to the satisfaction of the commissioner of taxpayer Audit and Assessment that he paid an amount in excess of that which was properly chargeable for income tax, for any year of assessment, he is entitled to a refund from the commissioner of Inland Revenue. The taxpayer must make this claim within six years from the date of the assessment.
3. The CT is entitled to levy distress (that is, seize goods and chattels, including money) for unpaid taxes where tax returns are made but the duties are not paid, or if a person is assessed for payment of taxes and does not make returns and pay duties within 10 days after the delivery of the assessment to him. This may be one with or without an order of the court.
4. The goods and chattels which have been detained may be redeemed if the taxpayer settles the outstanding taxes and commission ( five per cent). If he does not do so within 10 days, the goods and chattels may be sold.
5. The CT may cause summonses to be issued against the taxpayer for the recovery of unpaid taxes in the Resident Magistrate's Court.
6. Proceedings commenced in court under Section 46 of the Tax Collection Act for recovery of unpaid taxes are not criminal proceedings. In the case of the Collector of Taxes v Winston Lincoln, the Court of Appeal stated that "no criminal offence of any kind is involved in a mere failure to pay taxes, and the process under Section 46 (1), although cognisable by a Resident magistrate in his petty sessional jurisdiction, the forum is not a criminal one but a civil one."
7. If a person pays his unpaid taxes his liability is immediately discharged.
8. If a taxpayer is in arrears for taxes, and would be entitled to receive payment from the public revenue (whether salary or other payments), the accountant general shall retain such portion of the salary or other payment as may be sufficient to settle the outstanding taxes and any surcharge thereon.
9. Under the Income Tax Act, any person who knowingly makes any false statement or false representation for the purpose of obtaining a reduction or an allowance shall be liable on summary conviction before a resident magistrate to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or treble the amount of tax due, or, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding five years.
10. If the commissioner of Inland Revenue or Taxpayer Audit and Assessment Department has reason to believe that a person who has been assessed to pay income tax may leave the island before such tax becomes payable without having paid it, he may demand payment of the tax within such time as may be limited in a written notice. In default of payment, unless security for payment is given to the satisfaction of the commissioner, the amount shall be recoverable forthwith. In default of payment, a stop order may then be issued pursuant to the Income Tax Rules preventing the person from leaving the island.
Sherry-Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator with the firm Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Send feedback and questions to email@example.com or Lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.