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Punish companies cheating tax system

Published:Saturday | March 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM


Regarding The Gleaner's editorial of Thursday, March 22, 2012, I see that your newspaper has fallen for the ruse of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and its president, Joseph M. Matalon, an honourable man.

The mere passing of a resolution (threat to boot members who are not tax compliant) does not reality make.

The by-laws and Constitution of the PSOJ stipulate when and under what circumstances a member can be booted. A member failing to show 'the new tax enforcer' (PSOJ) that it is tax compliant is not one of the circumstances. I concur that there might be a legal challenge to this hot-air proposal.

For years, some members of the PSOJ have not been paying all their taxes. Now that the president, Mr Matalon, has been given the responsibility of framing the new tax laws, there is a sudden attack of tax morality.

The public has a better grasp, and has given myriad suggestions on tax compliance. Special-interest groups like the PSOJ are only feathering their nests, ensuring that there is something in it (tax reform) for them.

Swift, severe punishment

We will not have effective tax compliance unless punishment under the law is severe and swift. I stand to be corrected, but I am yet to hear the punishment that the PSOJ suggests for those who do not pay, or under-report their tax liability. Yes, the PSOJ is silent on that. Punishment should not only be limited to private individuals.

To ensure compliance by companies, the managers and CEOs of these companies must be held accountable. By extension, they must suffer the same consequences as a private individual, or worse.

Their bank account must be frozen; overseas travelling privilege revoked; and their property swiftly confiscated for their company's non-compliance with the tax laws. In short order, individuals and companies that are required to comply with the tax law will do so - even out of fear.

We, the ordinary folks, can see, through the grandstanding of the PSOJ and Mr Matalon. We need more bite and less bark in our tax legislation. Bottom line: It's the Government's and Opposition's duty and responsibility to enact and enforce tax laws, not the PSOJ.