As published on barbadostoday.bb, Tuesday 23 August, 2022.
Revenue Commissioner of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) Louisa Lewis-Ward is giving the assurance that some improvements are on the cards for the agency’s collection and reporting processes.
This was outlined in the BRA’s extended response to the latest Auditor General’s report, which identified a number of shortcomings within the revenue collection agency.
In his 2021 report, Auditor General Leigh Trotman raised several concerns relating to extremely long delays in the provision of information, lack of information and inconsistencies that “pose risk of errors, omissions or acts of fraud being perpetuated and concealed”.
He also highlighted the issue of refunds to taxpayers and monies that were due to the BRA.
However, while refuting some of those claims, Lewis-Ward noted that the revenue collection agency has been plagued with “technological challenges”.
“The Authority’s revenue recording systems have been plagued with technological challenges. Internal project teams were established to review and verify all legacy systems balances with a view to arriving at a reliable estimate of refunds and receivables due to and due from taxpayers,” she said.
In relation to the concern about extremely long delays in the provision of information, the revenue commissioner in her written response to the Ministry of Finance – which was contained in Government’s overall response compiled by Director of Finance and Economic Affairs Ian Carrington – said that concern was noted and the BRA was “working assiduously to meet the timelines as prescribed”.
As for a lack of information regarding write-offs and “scattered records for receivables over several systems”, the BRA head said “as the Barbados Audit Office is aware, the legacy systems including ETAX and VETAS, and now TAMIS are and were plagued with technological challenges”.
“As a result, limited reliance is placed on these systems balances unless they are verified at the individual level. Inconsistencies and errors as noted are expected to arise and have been reported previously to you. Internal project teams were established to review and verify all legacy systems balances with a view to arriving at a reliable estimate of refunds and receivables due to and due from taxpayers,” she said.
“In addition, the Authority has written to the Ministry of Finance to request the write-off of penalties and interest within the legacy and current systems so as to facilitate and clean-up balances on taxpayers’ accounts.”
Lewis-Ward said that BRA has appointed a project lead and is undertaking a clean-up exercise to eliminate any perceived inconsistencies between cash and banking information.
“The Authority will confirm the source of the reconciling differences and make the necessary adjustments in ledger to eliminate them. Efforts will be made to resolve unreconciled differences in the bank reconciliation statements in a timely manner,” she assured.
Lewis-Ward said that BRA continues to document, improve and implement finance processes and procedures, as well as needed processes and procedures across the organisation.
“In addition, a review of the tax platforms will be undertaken in the upcoming fiscal year with a view to making improvements to the revenue collection process,” she added.
“We have had ongoing dialogue with the Treasury with a view to refining the financial statement information for 2022/23.”