Today was the launch of the Belize Tax Service Department, which will house both the General Sales Tax and the Income Tax Departments. The creation of the new tax department is in an effort to modernize the tax administration. Reporter Johnelle McKenzie attended the launch and filed this report.
Johnelle Mckenzie: “The General Sales Tax GST came into effect on the 1st of July 2006 and today GST was officially amalgamated with the Income Tax Department under the newly formed Belize Tax Service Department. Taxpayers will now be able to pay their Business Tax and GST in one place and the amalgamation will also provide more efficiency and productivity. This morning a short ceremony was held to mark the historic occasion at the Charles Bartlett Building in Belize City. Michelle Longsworth Director General of the Belize Tax Service Department said that there wasn’t anyone made redundant as a result of the amalgamation.”
Michelle Longsworth – Director General Belize Tax Department: ““As it speaks to the legal framework, in order for us to amalgamate the two offices we had to take both the GST and the Income Charging Act, take out the similar procedures that are in there and form one Tax Administration Procedure so the two charging acts still remains for the specific tax type but then you have the Tax Administration Procedural Act that speaks to the various procedures for any tax type. As it stands the system that we have right now is an old Legacy system that cannot accommodate the new modern services that taxpayers are demanding so with the assistance Government approached the IDB and as the Financial Secretary said earlier, it was approved. The Government is now getting a $14 million loan to procure and implement a new integrated tax system that will allow for taxpayers to register online, file online and pay online. That will be done in a phased approach so by December of this year we should have chosen a vendor and start implementation January 2020. “
Johnelle Mckenzie: “Lisa Claire the Deputy Director of Policy and Programs at the Belize Tax Service Department explained the need to modernize the Tax Administration System.”
Lisa Claire – Deputy Director of Policy and Programs Belize Sales Tax Department: “The modernization of our tax administration required two changes, there are two components and those two components required the integration of the Income Tax and the General Sales Tax Department. The second component required the procuring and implementing of an integrated tax administration system. We are faced with different challenges: that of globalization and digitalization of business. This has meant that there is an increase in trade transactions that are being done around the world. This had made it very difficult for tax administrations to handle this growth by using manual systems that are currently in place. We have social media that has so much information that a Tax Administration requires and there is the aspect of the international cooperation: we have the OECD, we have different projects like the automatic exchange of information, we have BEPS that we have signed onto, the common reporting standards and these standards are things that we have to comply with. There is also the need for tax transparency. Our taxpayers demand that from us and so there is a need for the tax administration to be able to balance all of these challenges while still ensuring that they improve the service that they provide to our tax clients.”
Johnelle Mckenzie: The funding for the amalgamation is being provided by the Inter American Development Bank to the tune of $14 million U.S. and technical assistance was provided by the Carribean Regional and Technical Assistance Center CORTEC. The newly formed Tax Department has a total of 240 staff. This is Johnelle Mckenzie reporting for Love News.”