IRS has authority to garnish salaries and access bank accounts

Dear Editor,

Kindly permit me a few lines to comment on one aspect of the recently presented national budget for 2017. That one aspect is the announcement of the intent to amend the law to provide for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to access the bank accounts of defaulting tax payers for the purpose of retrieving outstanding payments.

While this announcement quite rightly has attracted much attention, to put it mildly, from various sections of the population, I am of the view that this measure is not as draconian as it appears if the process leading to the GRA accessing one’s bank account is fully explained. In the United States the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the equivalent of the GRA, does have the authority to garnish salaries and to access bank accounts. But as I understand it, such action is only resorted to after several other processes and options have been exhausted, including acceptance by the taxpayer that the outstanding amounts are indeed accurate.

In such cases the taxpayer, on advising of his or her inability to pay the full amount owed, has an opportunity to enter into a payment plan. It is only after wanton neglect in meeting the payments under that plan, and insufficient evidence to convince the competent authority (in this case the GRA) of one’s inability to make the agreed payments, that action such as salary garnishment and access to bank accounts for retrieving payment, is reverted to.

I am not sure exactly what process/methodology would apply in Guyana under the new law but I would want to think that no government would resort to freezing bank accounts of defaulting taxpayers until and unless all other options for retrieving outstanding taxes had been exhausted. If this is the case then the government, through the GRA needs to fully explain this to the nation.

Yours faithfully,

Wesley Kirton

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