Of the several Bills brought to the House of Representatives one of them has to do with the government’s initiative to collect outstanding taxes. The Tax Administration and Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2021 saw its second reading today. The Bill will allow law enforcement to amend the general provisions of criminal proceedings that will see tax offences punishable.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “This bill serves dual purposes. The first it seeks to bring the tax administration and procedure act in compliance with the Constitution of Belize and secondly it seeks to facilitate the prosecution of tax offences and the collection of tax debt including the publication of notices to and name of tax defaulters. Madam Speaker as I said we’ll make it in compliance with the constitution. As I mentioned in its current form the way it is right now before these amendments the act restricts the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions to persecute tax offences without the approval of the Director General of the Belize Tax Service Department. Such restriction of authority is manifestly inconsistent with the constitution. Because of this unconstitutionality no criminal prosecution has been brought on the TAPA since it’s enactment in 2019. Tax defaulters and tax offenders have therefore been free from criminal jeopardy. With the enactment of this bill those who have committed tax offences will now be subject to criminal prosecution, we expect this will incentivize tax compliance. As to the second purpose, the non compliance with tax laws and the uncollected or unrecoverable tax debts means that the government of Belize collects less money in it’s consolidated revenue fund that it should have otherwise received which means less money for health, for education, infrastructure to help the poor including less money for development expenditure. To address this problem the Ministry of Finance, through the Belize Tax Services Department is in the process of establishing the tax debt recovery unit . This is expected to be operational at the start of October this year. In support of this initiative to enhance collection of unpaid taxes this bill inserts a provision into the TAPA to name and shame tax defaulters and providing for the publication of notice to and names of the defaulters prior to legal proceedings for the recovery of tax debt. It also seeks to disincentivize corrupt behavior from within the tax department by providing for all employees of the tax department to be eligible to be charged for tax offences.”