SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius Buncamper, faction leader of the United St. Maarten (US) Party in parliament, has expressed concerns with the country’s current tax system and the performance of the tax inspectorate, the MP said in a press statement on Thursday.
MP Buncamper’s first outcry came in defense of the senior citizens, who’s income, their pension, from which taxes are levied. The MP intends to prepare the necessary draft amendments to the income taxes tax legislations to exempt taxing pension income or income based on previous employment.
The legislations requires much research, and as such will take some time to be drafted.
Another concern of the MP is the fact that the inspectorate continues to go after the same group of persons who declare their income, particularly the elderly with a meager pension income.
Taxes are collected from taxpayers who declare their income and, unfortunately, the tax office is not pursuing the collection of taxes from those who do not declare their income. This information was provided to the finance committee of Parliament by the minister of finance.
Taxpayers or potential taxpayers, who derive an income from renting their property, be it through AirBnB or any other platform, go undetected and untaxed. The law provides the tools to collect, but the inspectorate of taxes must take the initiative. It does not seem like an impossible task. If persons interested in renting a room or villa can do so via the internet, get the address, and physically find the property and occupy it, I imagine the tax inspectorate can find it too.
It is unreasonable to have the registered taxpayers carry the tax burden and be pressured, particularly during these trying times. Currently, there is a dedicated Tax Inspector working on the AirBnB agreement, so states the minister of Finance in his response to my questions in Parliament, but will we see any progress even after an agreement is reached?
This is one of the reasons the Tax Reform must go hand in hand with the restructuring of the organization.
As many businesses and taxpayers were unable to fulfil their tax obligations during the lockdown in 2020, a postponement of tax obligations was granted for a few months.
The taxes owed during that period are still due for payment. The possibilities to obtain a deferral of payments of taxes owed are laid down in the “invorderingsverordering” (recovery regulations). The MP has asked the minister to prepare a amendment to the legislation to allow the Inspectorate of Taxes to grant more lenience to the taxpayer then is presently allowed by law.
However, collection efforts have been stepped up by the Ministry of VROMI, particularly in collecting outstanding “Erfpacht canon” (leasehold canon) and building permit requests.
The sharing of personal information by the Tax Inspectorate is another one of MP Buncamper’s concerns. Although the Tax Administration is not legally allowed to share information with other entities, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and SZV, these entities are obligated by law to provide the required information to the tax office. This is to safeguard data security and secrecy of the taxpayers’ information. In essence important, but how do we ensure synchronization of data to improve efficiency and effectively? Here too we need to consider amendments to the tax legislation.
We have been informed that the tax office is currently severely understaffed by about 60 persons. This seems like a reasonable explanation for the need to employ more people in government, but will we find these people, are they applying to the vacancies, are we offering sufficiently competitive salaries to attract the required qualified people, these are the questions that this situation raises. The MP passionately believes we have many qualified locals here and abroad and we need to bring our own home to fill these vacancies.
Proper checks and balances are necessary, not just by SOAB, but by having the positions within the organization filled which safeguard those checks and balances throughout the process.
So tax reform is important to increase the tax compliance which should lead to more revenue, but improvements to the operation of the tax organization and collection policies which focus beyond the regular “easy target” taxpayers, will make a difference now.