In an article in THE VINCENTIAN newspaper of 1st April 2022, it was interesting to see an early warning from the Inland Revenue to those who might want to contravene the tax laws. The Inland Revenue warned that ‘those business who engage in tax avoidance practices better be on their guard and in the interest of fair play and compliance with the law, should desist from same’.
The Inland Revenue Department said that its newly established Tax-Payer Intelligence and Investigative Unit is on watch for businesses which engage in tax avoidance practices. This unit is tasked with investigating businesses to ensure all practices are in accordance with SVG’s tax laws.
Everyone in SVG knows where the Inland Revenue should start its investigations into tax avoidance practices: Mustique and Canouan and Taiwan.
The super-rich migrants in Mustique and Canouan gain an unfair advantage over locally owned and operated businesses who have to pay tax. Hotels and apartments owned by Vincentians cannot compete with the hotels and apartments owned by the super-rich migrants in Mustique and Canouan, as these have lower overheads. This is grossly unfair to our economy and society.
In December 2017, Apple, the multinational technology company, agreed to pay Ireland back nearly $15bn in unpaid taxes. Apple CEO Tim Cook has talked about the need for companies to have a social consciousness.
The super-rich migrants in Mustique and Canouan have had tax and customs duties exemptions for decades. Should they be made to pay back the tax they avoided paying over the decades?
It is an open secret, also, that for decades Taiwan has been avoiding paying their fair share of tax (fish tax), as ordinary Vincentians have to.
Taiwan operates a fleet of tuna-fishing vessels on SVG’s deep sea fish licence and uses SVG’s flag on its ships to say they are SVG local fishing vessels. However, under International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) rules, fishing vessels should offload their fish catch in the country of the flag the fishing vessel is flying.
Therefore, Taiwan’s fishing vessels must offload their Atlantic Ocean tuna fish catch in St. Vincent and pay fish tax, estimated to be about EC$2.7 billion annually. However, Taiwan has been ignoring the ICCAT rules. The Taiwan fishing vessels do not offload their Atlantic Ocean tuna fish catch in St. Vincent and they do not pay fish tax to the SVG Treasury. Taiwan has avoided paying billions of dollars in fish tax over the past few decades.
Everyone in the country will be looking forward to hearing updates from the Inland Revenue Department’s Tax-Payer Intelligence and Investigative Unit, about how it is getting back the billions of dollars of tax that Mustique, Canouan and Taiwan have avoided paying over the last few decades.
Leader of SVG Green Party, Warrant Officer Ivan Bertie O’Neal BSc (Hons), MSc, MBA, believes that SVG needs a change in government and a change in economic strategy, and more critically, a government that is competent in managing SVG’s public accounts, has the ability to create sustainable sources of revenue and the courage to make the super-rich of Mustique and Canouan and Taiwan pay their fair share of tax.