That lawyers and other professionals should pay their share of lawful taxes is not a matter in dispute. However, the public interest in the fair and efficient enforcement of all tax laws is not met by selective opprobrium and defamatory information.
The protection of the freedom of expression contained in Article 146 of the Guyana Constitution requires that the freedom to communicate information be qualified by such reasonable requirements for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons and maintaining the confidentiality obligations of public officers.
Article 146(3) provides “Freedom of expression [protected] in this article does not relate to hate speeches or other expressions, in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons.”
Sections 37 through 39 of the Tax Act create a regime for Accountants, Architects, Auditors, Dentists, Engineers, Legal Practitioners, Medical Practitioners, Optometrists, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Surveyors and Veterinary Surgeons to obtain Tax Practice Certificates. The Kaieteur News between Saturday, 28th September and 30th September in a series of purported advertisements from the Guyana Revenue Authority, and its own articles and editorials, communicated to its readers, information which purports to be a list of persons drawn from all the above mentioned scheduled classes in respect of whom certificates have been issued and published several spurious conclusions drawn therefrom. It has been conceded that the information is inaccurate and embellished.
Section 37(11) provides for the publication on 15th March and 1st July in the Gazette of the names of persons whom have been issued certificates by the Commissioner (of the Guyana Revenue Authority).
Because of the statutory inferences which one may draw, the framers of the law must have expected this can be done accurately and that the mechanisms for receiving payments and issuing said certificates was also efficient. There is no provision for publication elsewhere beyond the statutory requirement of publication in the Gazette. On Thursday, 3rd October 2013, the Commissioner of the Guyana Revenue Authority has honourably retracted the publication and distanced his organization from the Kaieteur News’ recklessness, lies and stupidity.