Posted: Saturday, January 2, 2016. 7:13 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Pay your taxes! That is the word from the General Sales Tax Department (GST), on the heels of reports denied earlier this week that the tax would be increased from its present rate of 12.5 percent to at or near 15 percent.
While Commissioner of the Department, Betty-Ann Jones, concluded to the Reporter newspaper that the claim was “mischief,” she confirmed however that measures have been introduced to crack down on their collection efficiency.
Jones explained that consumers are now being brought into the fray to assist with collections, since GST is a self-policing tax.
That means making sure you have your receipt from your favorite grocer or business, that clearly shows how much tax was taken.
The culture is that people do not request a receipt if it is not given, and this, says Jones, goes in tandem with a weak law. But in other countries, there is a deterrent to discourage businesses from engaging in dishonesty. They can be fined 5 thousand dollars for either not using a valid cash register receipt or not issuing a receipt at all.
Valid receipts should indicate the tax identification number, the name of the business and the date of the transaction or purchase. The amount paid for GST should be clearly shown in the subtotal as well.
Because people have been crafty in cheating the system, the GST unit has endeavoured to introduce a Point of Sales System as the standard machine used, rather than a cash register. The machine, highly efficient for its capabilities, lists items purchased, and controls inventory to allow for better auditing.
It prevents businesses from offering their customers an extra item for not giving them a receipt, and from using calculators and cash registers that print invalid receipts that don’t record the tax charged. It also prevents employees from stealing from the business when they collect money for an item and do not enter it in the system.
This machine, however, is not yet mandatory in Belize, although a few major supermarkets are already using it.
Evan Brown, the assistant commissioner of the GST Department says business owners have evaded paying in GST collected from consumers by importing various types of cash registers that do not record transactions, or machines that can be programmed to their liking. Sting operations, however, randomly conducted countrywide, have yielded a number of court convictions, particularly in the Corozal, Cayo and Belize districts, resulting in fines paid to the government over the past two years. Follow-up checks at these businesses have also led to a second conviction and to fines, in some cases.
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