Minister of Finance, the honorable Ardwell Irion, opened the 2020 Tax Summit hosted by the Finance ministry last Wednesday, February 5th. In attendance were representatives of the tax administration, the receiver office, section business taxes, financial policy management & control, the treasury, ICT department, fiscal affairs, the finance department, the cabinet of the minister of finance, the World Bank and CARTAC (the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre)
The minister expressed his appreciation to the key players in the financial arena for attending, especially those representing The World Bank and CARTAC, who traveled to St. Maarten. The minister emphasized the importance of the internal specialists who will have to carry us further with the results of this summit.
“We are fortunate to be able to bring together all these distinct experts in such a short time”, said minister Irion. “I trust that you will contribute to, as we reflect on, the existing plans and understand the situation we are in. We aim to find a sustainable solution for the challenges that we face and I am convinced that we have the best team to give direction to reaching our objectives”.
Addressing the three principal topics, public financial management, the tax organization and fiscal reform, the small group of experts jointly assessed the current situation and established the steps necessary to improve all three areas, which effect public finances and the customers otherwise referred to as the taxpayers.
The desired outcome is: to be a modern functioning tax administration with a sound legislative foundation, operating autonomously with individual organizational planning, budget management and human resource management.
And to obtaining sufficient skilled and qualified human resource with the aim of eventually operating a paperless organization.
As for the tax regime, it was confirmed that since 2015 legislation was being drafted with the aim to simplify the tax system, maximize revenue and to create an attractive investment climate. Notwithstanding the numerous changes in government, which has contributed to the delay, the principles of the tax reform have remained the same. Final calculations of the proposed amendments, for which reliable data is required in order to move forward, are still pending.
The relationship established with CARTAC is one of the IMF Regional Technical Assistance Centers (RTAC) located around the world in the Pacific, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, India and Central America. These Centers were created to assist countries to strengthen their human and institutional capacity to design and implement sound macroeconomic policies that promote growth and reduce poverty. CARTAC is already rendering results at an affordable annual cost of US$ 150.000, compared to millions that consultants would cost. Additionally CARTAC’s approach of support is to assist and share the knowledge in order for the recipient, in this case St. Maarten’s civil servants, to learn and carry out the improvements themselves. Projects such as cleaning up the data and reporting are such exercises that are to commence within the next two months.
Short-term, medium and long-term goals, not exceeding three years, were established to commence in March of this year of which several will run simultaneously. While many more details were discussed, assistance relating to data analysis is expected from the World Bank in the short term.
Important aspects required for success is to ensure that all who are required to contribute to the treasury do so. In light of this the tax reform will also aim at capturing the informal sector.