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Govt begins process to establish TTRA

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Government has embarked on the first phase of its plan to establish the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA).

The move comes less than one month after Finance Minister Colm Imbert indicated in the budget presentation that the TTRA would be set up next year.

During a post-budget forum earlier this month, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West said government was committed to transforming the country's revenue collection process through the TTRA.

Regarding the opposition's support which was necessary for its successful implementation, West said government had been exploring ways and means of establishing the TTRA without needing the two-thirds majority.

In a release yesterday, the Ministry of Finance revealed "mapping" exercises had already been undertaken at both the Board of Inland Revenue and the Customs and Excise Division.

Officials said, "The TTRA will subsume the powers, responsibilities and functions of the Board of Inland Revenue and the Customs and Excise Division under the provisions of the Exchequer and Audit Act and all other relevant revenue legislation and regulations."

They said the TTRA will be a government agency responsible for the collection of government revenue and the provision of other services for the protection of government revenue, including investigation of tax evasion, the conduct of audits and border protection.

Government has assured all categories of staff including permanent, temporary, contract, monthly-paid and daily-paid, that the transition will be done smoothly and without loss of employment as is being claimed by the Public Services Association (PSA).

Officials said, "Government has taken a decision that all staff in the Inland Revenue Division and the Customs and Excise Division will transition from their respective positions to the TTRA at terms and conditions, no less favourable than those that they currently enjoy, if they so desire."

"Any member of staff who desires to transition to the TTRA will be guaranteed a position in the organisation."

Officials said one objective of the TTRA was to better compensate, incentivise, train and equip staff to execute their duties more efficiently and effectively.

The ministry went on, "Staff who do not wish to transition to the TTRA would be able to remain in the Public Service at terms and conditions no less favourable than those they now enjoy."

Contacted on the issue yesterday, PSA President Watson Duke declined to comment immediately.

He requested time to study the information released by the ministry, adding that he would be seeking legal advice on the matter to determine if in fact government had found a "loop hole" around the legal requirements.

However, he said, "History has shown that those types of arrangements do not work."

He said this was evident in similar situations where workers were transitioned from the General Post Office to TTPost, from the National Housing Authority to the Housing Development Corporation, and from the Ministry of Health to the Regional Health Authority.

Duke said, "The workers and the public want a solution, but this is no panacea."

He said there was evidence worldwide to suggest Revenue Authorities, "Had strengthened or improved the collection of revenue."