Jul 13, 2017
It is required by law that professionals practising for a reward must pay related fees. However topping the list of such persons failing to apply for payment of such fees are lawyers and doctors.
Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Godfrey Statia, made this disclosure on Monday when he appeared on behalf of that entity before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to discuss matters raised by the Auditor General in his audit report for 2015.
Chairman of the PAC, Irfaan Ali had brought paragraph 147 of the report into question which stated that with respect to Professional Fees, amounts totalling $5.79M were collected at the end of 2015, as compared with $6.9M at the end of the previous year.
The report added that “the Conservatory Order instituted in October 2003 restraining the Guyana Revenue Authority from assessing and collecting increased fees from all professionals was still in effect and the matter had not been finalised. As a result of the restraining order, the Department was barred from collecting an additional sum of $48.34M in professional fees.”
It was recommended by the Auditor General that GRA follow up with the Courts to bring closure to the matter, and a reconciliation of certificates printed and issued as per location should be prepared and submitted to the Audit Office.
Addressing the reduction in fees between 2014 and 2015, the Commissioner-General said that it was due to less persons applying to professional fees at that time. However, he said that the amount is up this year as there are ways and means in getting persons in the professional fields to apply for fees.
“We know that the persons who did not apply here are centred around two professions. They are the lawyers and the doctors.”
Statia said that it was suggested that GRA write the relevant associations on this matter. However, the Commissioner-General said that in some countries there is a Department of Professional Regulations. He said that such a department should be established in Guyana so that it can police these persons to ensure they comply with the law.
He added that in Trinidad and Tobago, lawyers that fail to pay their professional fees are barred from representing clients in the courts.
“After a time what we have found is that because of the legal fraternity, lots of aiding and abetting in not paying is actually done on a continual basis.”
Statia said that he would have asked that the court matter, which began in 2003, should have been brought up at least twice. He said that he would have had discussions with the past Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh, on the matter for a date to be set for hearing.
He said that he could not understand why there were so many ex-parte injunctions on these matters. He said that the issue is of national interest and should therefore be inter partes, since the parties which include the GRA and the professional bodies involved are available to participate in the hearings.
When asked how the GRA would have arrived at the $48.340M, Statia said that the rates would have changed from $10,000. In 2003, changes were made to the fiscal Amendment and Accountability Act and the fees for the various categories of professionals had increased.
For Category A, rates increased to $250,000; Category B, $150,000 and Category C, $75,000. Statia said that there were certain professions that were not a part of the 2003 Conservatory Order by virtue of not being able to afford the new costs, such as pharmacists.
Responding to the points made by Statia was PAC member and APNU+AFC Parliamentarian, Charandass Persaud. He is also an Attorney-at-law. According to Persaud, the Guyana Bar Association does not cover all the lawyers in Guyana, but mainly those in Georgetown, and Berbice has its own association.
He said that an issue which GRA needs to consider is the employees of professionals. He said that there are people working for some lawyers and are not paying taxes.
Statia said that there are lawyers of the reputable firms who pay their Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax. However, he pointed out that some are sheltering under the “Contract of Services” versus the “Contract for Services.”
He said that some lawyers argue that persons who work for them do so either on a commission basis or as a contract employee. He added that when certain rules are applied, employees deemed not to be contract employees by those professionals eventually are deemed contract employees.
Statia said that officers of GRA would have been sent to offices of lawyers and were thrown out. He even mentioned that one such lawyer was a member of parliament. The Commissioner-General said that the GRA has seen utter disrespect and disregard for the law as tax employees. Professionals in Guyana are considered to be either legal practitioners, medical practitioners, dentists, physiotherapists, veterinary surgeons, engineers, accountants, auditors, surveyors, architects, pharmacists and optometrists.