~ Tax Office severely understaffed ~
PHILIPSBURG--A “dedicated” tax inspector is currently working on an agreement with Airbnb. Finance Minister Ardwell Irion told Members of Parliament (MPs) in written answers to questions received in a meeting of Parliament’s Finance Committee, that this process resumed when he took office.
“Unfortunately, our Tax Office is not pursuing the collection of taxes from those who do not declare their income,” Irion said in response to a question on whether the Tax Office goes after persons who have second and third homes and do business with Airbnb.
“This is another reason that tax reform must go hand-in-hand with the restructuring of the organisation. It is a problem which this administration/government has inherited. We are adamant about changing this during my tenure. It is unreasonable to have the registered taxpayers carry the tax burden and be pressured, particularly during these trying times,” Irion made clear. “To this point, we have a dedicated tax inspector working on the Airbnb agreement. This is an effort that was resumed since I took office. We were informed that Airbnb was being restructured, which has contributed to the delay confirming a meeting and advancing with this arrangement.”
The Tax Office is currently severely understaffed and any additional personnel will help eliminate the deficit by being able to conduct more controls, eliminate backlogs and thereby increase compliance, Irion said.
The Tax Office is short by about 60 persons. Vacancies exist for a department head and four section heads.
When asked how checks and balances are presently being carried out with a staffing issue, Irion said having one person deputise in several functions is not ideal for checks and balances and for the efficiency of the work that must be done. “We have therefore sought to identify the most critical functions within the Finance Ministry and are making a consorted effort to recruit.”
He referred MPs to government page http://www.sintmaartengov.org/government/Pages/Employment.aspx, as well as the local media and said MPs can “contribute by sharing the ads. There are opportunities for St. Maarten Diasporas to consider coming back home. Checks and balances are done in any case by the SOAB [Government Accounts Bureau – Ed], but cannot replace the-day-to day checks and balances that should take place by having critical functions filled.”
When asked whether the Tax Office shares information with entities such as the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI), Social and Health Insurances SZV and other entities, Irion said the Tax Administration is not legally allowed to share information with COCI or SZV. “According to the current legislation, those entities are obligated to share information with the Tax Office and not the other way around due to data security and secrecy of taxpayers’ information.”
When asked for his position on the country’s tax system, who will participate in the discussions and decision-making process, whether Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS) is part of these discussions, and who decides what the country’s ultimate tax system will look like, Irion said: “My position remains that we should simplify our tax system, lessen the individual burden, broaden the base and improve the investment climate; all this while generating the necessary revenue for the country to provide adequate goods and services to the citizens of this country.”
He added that the Ministry of Finance, which includes the Tax Department are involved in these discussions currently being held within the TWO (Tijdelijke Werk Organizatie) platform with the Department of Interior Affairs and the Dutch Ministry of Finance. “The CBCS is no expert in the area of tax reform, but plays a role in calculating the economic impact of tax measures/changes. Parliament will make the ultimate decision on the Tax Regime, as it must be established in National Ordinance(s).”