Finance ministry denies having taxpayer records

– but says sourced data on private schools’ earnings

The Ministry of Finance yesterday denied that it has taxpayers’ records but did admit to sourcing data on private schools during the preparation of the 2017 national budget.

The ministry’s denial was issued in a statement released yesterday in res-ponse to a Guyana Times article, which reported Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine as indicating that records at the Ministry of Finance show that many institutions have been slipping on their tax requirements.

The minister reportedly made the statement during the meeting with parents, students and other stakeholders on the government’s decision to apply the Value Added Tax (VAT) to private education fees.

The article also reported chartered accountant Christopher Ram as expressing concern that the ministry has records of private schools’ tax information.

“The Ministry of Finance wishes to make clear that it does not have the records of any taxpayer as insinuated by the article,” the ministry said yesterday.

“As part of the efforts to broaden the tax base, in the context of reducing the VAT rate and providing relief in other areas, the Ministry of Finance, during the Budget 2017 exercise, required data on various sectors, activities and institutions, one of which was private schools. The data in respect of the private schools were limited to the number of them registered in the system and their earnings. The clear intent was to examine the amount of additional revenue that could be garnered from the imposition of the VAT on this source,” it added.

It assured that citizens’ confidentiality and integrity of their tax information are “zealously guarded by the Guyana Revenue Authority, unlike a period not so long ago when taxpayers’ information was being shared with individuals associated with the Opposition party.”

Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo also addressed the issue yesterday at a press conference, where he questioned how Roopnaraine knew of the schools that were not tax compliant.

“So how come he knows about it? And I think he has been called on it,” Jagdeo said.

“Obviously they are sharing the tax records; the GRA is complicit in this too, sharing people’s tax records,” Jagdeo claimed.