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posted 15 May 2018, 16:44 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 May 2018, 17:01 ]

I don’t know Ms Angelique Bart and I don’t want to be branded, like Impsbert, as shooting the messenger. Ms. Bart is a tax expert. After all, she spent seven years as a senior partner at PwC, described as one of the “big four” audit firms in the country, and for the last seven years she has been a partner at the law firm M. Hamel Smith and Co. This is the leading law firm in the business world.

Ms. Bart has called for the taxing of doubles vendors and taxi drivers and I really can’t argue with that; given how our economy is structured.

I’m not too convinced that the figures this powerful lady cited as being the value of the doubles industry reflect reality, (200 doubles sold in five minutes? Really Ms. Bart!). But, be that as it may, I am afraid that Ms. Bart displays a class bias in her focus on doubles and taxi sectors.

There are large sectors of the economy where tax non-compliance is the norm, but the doubles and taxi sectors are certainly not the worst offenders. I am saying this after Senator Allyson West: another tax expert.

According to this website West is the:”former Partner and Territory Tax Leader in the Tax and Corporate Services Department of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). She is a senior member of the Law Association of T&T, registered to practice law in T&T”, She of, course, now the Minister in the Ministry of Finance. Interesting that both Bart and West are connected to PwC!

Back in October 2017 in a speech to the American Chamber, the very organisation where Ms. Bart focussed on the non- compliance of the doubles and taxi driver sectors, hear Senator West:

“…the Tax Gap is between 11 percent and 18 percent, or between TT$12 billion and TT$15 billion. Estimating recovery of 68% of that shortfall, the shortfall of revenue by tax type is as follows:-

• Corporate Tax Gap TT$5.1 billion and TT$6.6 billion

• VAT gap between TT$1.9 billion and TT$2.4 billion.

Suddenly the wildly speculative $200m proffered by Ms. Bart begins to look like chicken feed when compared to the tax gap, according
to Senator West, of $12 to $15 billion. Odd that she didn’t advance a figure for the taxi drivers…maybe if she had to ride the maxi everyday…!

The Minister in the Ministry went on: “It is commonly felt that a significant segment of certain categories of economic actors do not bear their fair share of taxes, they include

• Doctors

• Lawyers

• Insurance professionals

• Taxi drivers

• Food vendors

• Carnival band producers

• Artistes and sports persons

The last four categories named by the Minister could hardly rival the first three categories in tax non-compliance. The focus is at the bottom of the scale. After all how can one go after the very people who keep the fees and the contracts running, so that they can minimise their tax liability?

So, although Ms. Bart considers herself an “employee” (that’s a good one!), her focus is really to defend the privileges of the one percent. Sparrow says it best!