Tax evasion rises in Trinidad and Tobago

The islands of Trinidad and Tobago has seen an increase in tax evasion, with cases almost doubling  in 2019 according to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in that nation.

The FIU is the  intelligence-gathering unit within the Ministry of Finance in T&T.

Cases rose by 79 per cent, the FIU declared with 134 reports of tax evasion valued at TTD$697 million.

Reports of money laundering also climbed 286 cases valued at TTD$329 million. 

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In total, the FIU recorded 1,019 suspicious transactions valued at TTD$1.7billion  for 2019.

FIU sources said one third of the persons involved were non-nationals from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In total, the value of reports exceeded 2018 by TTD$595 million.

Gail Alexan­der, writing in the Guardian newspaper, said the island now ranked higher in crime lists because of sus­pect­ed crim­i­nal con­duct lead­ing to mon­ey laun­der­ing.

A  In­come Tax Amend­ment bill which has been laid before Parliament in the country seeks to mitigate the rising problem through compliance with the Glob­al Fo­rum. The forum encourages  tax in­for­ma­tion ex­changes to pre­vent tax eva­sion.

The Caribbean Fi­nan­cial Task Force (CFATF,) is supporting the bill which is expected to  as­sist FIU with tax­pay­er in­for­ma­tion to de­ter­mine if earn­ings are le­git­i­mate.

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 Officials note that  tax eva­sion is crim­i­nal con­duct which can lead to mon­ey laun­der­ing of­fences.

As cited, indicators of evasion include co-min­gling of funds: putting busi­ness process­es in­to per­son­al ac­counts, as well as large de­posits of cash put in­to per­son­al ac­counts with un­ver­i­fi­able ex­pla­na­tions.

It is also inclusive of  trans­ac­tions which hide who ac­tu­al­ly owns the mon­ey to avoid  tax li­a­bil­i­ty.

In 2019 the FIU  re­ported of en­coun­ter­ing about (TT) $22 bil­lion worth of Sus­pi­cious Trans­ac­tion Re­ports (SARS) go­ing through the bank­ing system.

The FIU is tasked to track mon­ey from the source and iden­ti­fy where it came from and its ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion, to de­ter­mine if it’s le­git­i­mate earnings.

Mon­ey laun­der­ing issues  from crim­i­nal pro­ceeds from crimes inclusive of  hu­man traf­fick­ing, traf­fick­ing in arms/am­mu­ni­tion, cor­rup­tion, ex­tor­tion, mur­der, bribery, kid­nap­ping fraud, rob­bery, theft.

The island’s competent authorities are seeking to turn off the tap, preventing money from these sources from being legitimized