Lawyers among tax dodgers in St. Vincent

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says the majority of lawyers in St Vincent are tax dodgers with at least one lawyer paying EC$308 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) last year…the same as in 2018.

Gonsalves, who was making his contribution to the EC$1.2 billion budget presented by the Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves last week, said that the number of lawyers not paying income tax had increased last year to 92 per cent up from 66 per cent the previous year.

Gonsalves, who is himself an attorney, said that in the face of demands by some lawyers, he asked tax officials about “how much you all putting in the kitty.

“Because everybody was talking equity. Everybody was talking access. Everybody was saying how the government must do this, the government must do that,” Gonsalves said, adding that of the 71 lawyers operating here, only 47 paid personal income tax in 2018. Last year, only 65 paid taxes.

“Mr Speaker, but that isn’t the story. In 2018, the average personal income tax paid – one lawyer is EC$1,898. The highest among paid … was somebody who paid EC25, 835. Then somebody paid EC$8,100; somebody paid EC$19,457; somebody decided that they will put a – it’s shameful, they put a little thing in the kitty EC$308 in 2018 and they put the same EC$308 in 2019.”

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Gonsalves said he had asked the Comptroller of Inland Revenue to provide him with the figures but not the names of the lawyers.

“I’m very happy I asked for it because I don’t think even the comptroller knew the state of the affairs until the files were got and they did the examination,” he said, outlining also the amount of taxes owed to the state by nationals.

Total arrears is EC$11.3 million and that the figure was enough to make a down payment on the national stadium.

“I’ll call out some of the numbers: EC$1.729 million. … EC$667,000; EC$535 000, EC661, 000, EC$214,000,” he said, adding that he was not going to mention any figure “under EC$100,000…because there are so many of  those you know…”

He said the total arrears is EC$11.3 million and that the figure was enough to make a down payment on the national stadium.

He said regarding value-added tax (VAT), one person, who owes as much as EC$1.729 million in personal income tax, also owes EC$242,159 in VAT.

“Somebody owe $154,000 in VAT; 34,000 and so on and so forth…come on, you know, equity among equals proportionality among unequals. There are other professionals too but I choose the lawyers because they are the ones who are most outspoken.

“They in the courtroom, they use the courtroom as a place for politics they ain’t talking to the jury or the judge. They turn halfway so and they talking to the crowd. They in the gallery — what Ralph should do and what Ralph shouldn’t do, Mr. Speaker,” Gonsalves added.