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St. Maarten government close to improving functioning of Tax Department

THURSDAY, 17 JANUARY 2013

PHILIPSBURG–The government is moving closer to improving the functioning of the Tax Authority.
Finance Minister Roland Tuitt said on Wednesday that cleaning up of the taxpayer’s registry and writing off of old, uncollectable tax debts is ongoing and expected to be finalized within a few weeks.

The cleaning of the registry will allow the tax department to work more efficiently, reduce the number of erroneous tax assessments, and significantly reduce the administrative burden for the taxpayers. It will also result in a more fair collection of taxes and increased revenues for government by increased compliance, Tuitt said during the launch of the governing programme yesterday.

He said an important objective of government is the enhancement of St. Maarten’s financial situation by improving the functioning of the Tax Authority. The plan for this exercise is being carried out and updated, with the assistance of the Dutch Government.

As outlined in the governing programme, the new tax system, including the change to the motor vehicle tax, will result in a simpler and fair tax system which will benefit the government, the taxpayers and the development of St. Maarten in general, said the Finance minister.

He said preparations for the introduction of a new tax system are ongoing, while the change to the motor vehicle tax is being finalized. “All these objectives cannot be achieved without having the proper technical infrastructure in place.”
He also announced that after months of preparation and consultations between the relevant units within government, the upgrading, linking, and streamlining of the Information Communication Technology ICT systems within the Ministry of Finance will take effect in February. Having certain databases linked will make receiving information from and doing business with government much easier and less time-consuming.

The minister said as a member of the OECD’s Global Forum, St. Maarten has successfully completed its peer review in September 2012, which was ratified the following month during the yearly Global Forum meeting in South Africa.
“Now that St. Maarten has met the OECD-standards it will be more attractive for foreign investors. This position will be further enhanced by the favourable Moody’s rating which was issued in November of 2012.

“As a member of the Global Forum, St. Maarten will continue to negotiate and conclude tax treaties with other nations, including French St. Martin, during 2013 and 2014.”

In the area of budgetary matters, he said the improvements are ongoing in close consultation with the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT). Plans are also being worked on enhance the personnel capacity within the Ministry so that it can meet all deadlines and live up to all the other requirements as set out in the financial supervision legislation.
“On my initiative, more dialogue and consultations will be held with the Dutch Government, so that potential issues can be identified and addressed before they become a real problem. The initial discussions will take place in the first quarter of 2013, after which the process can start.”

In the meantime, a staff member has been hired and is currently in training at the Central Bank. Once the training has been completed, the individual will be charged with enhancing the treasury department as outlined in the governing accord.

The internal control department will be upgraded in the first quarter of 2013 with the addition of a staff member who will be charged with implementing the upgrade.

He said the new Government of Curaçao has been cooperative in addressing the matters related to the Central Bank, and gradual progress is being made. As soon as the pending matters have been resolved, the Government will move forward with the improvement of the local building and looking into the matter of St. Maarten’s currency.

Tuitt said the tasks and responsibilities of the Finance Ministry are directly related to most, if not all of those of the other Ministries in some shape or form. As such, it aims to support and facilitate the other Ministries as they carry out their tasks, while at the same time managing and safeguarding the overall financial-economic well-being of the government, the general public, and St Maarten in general.

Since taking office, Tuitt said he and his colleagues, supported by staff and the civil service, have been working diligently on achieving the goals as agreed upon in the governing accord of May 21, 2012, and further worked out in the governing programme presented on Wednesday.

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