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New Senator to focus on taxes
Newly appointed Government Senator Allyson West says she will focus on tax administration after she is sworn in as Minister in the Finance Ministry today.
West, in her first interview since being appointed, said her ministerial appointment was taking place at “a very difficult time in the country (and) I have a tough task ahead of me.” She said, however, she has “quite a lot of experience in the tax area (and) that will be my focus and I am very hopeful that I can make a positive difference.”
Asked if citizens should be fearful of her appointment because of her focus on taxes, West smiled and said ,”No, my objective would be to ensure that taxes are fairly and properly applied (and) I really want to bring the concept of service to the tax area and ensure that the administration recognises that the taxpayers are our clients, so that we deal with them more efficiently , we give them their refunds but we collect the taxes that are due to the Government.”
She also worked previously at the Board of Inland Revenue as a State Counsel. She said she had “short stints in teaching” and was part of the implementation team for the VAT system- which was introduced under former prime minister Arthur Robinson during the 1985 to 1991 term. She was also a representative on the permanent and negotiating double taxation treaty committees.
West insisted yesterday she remains committed “to the tax system and getting it working properly.”
She said she was not surprised by the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint her as minister, adding that she knew the Prime Minister “for quite some time and I do know he appreciates my knowledge in the area (tax administration), so it didn’t shock me .”
She said, however, that she was “hoping to avoid a political post because I have shied away from politics all my life but Prime Minister Rowley said if we need to get it done properly this is how we need to do it , so I accepted the challenge.”
Asked to elaborate, West said she is “happy with the Ministry of Finance but the position of senator is not something I would have gravitated towards but I was called to serve and I have decided to take up the challenge.”
She said her first priority will be to gather information on the BIR. West said she wants “to see where the BIR is at with their challenges to determine what we can do differently as soon as possible.”
She said the establishment of the Revenue Authority is also on the agenda.
West said she “always thought that was the way to go. We have lost too many good people from the BIR because of the inflexibility of the public service, so if we create
some more flexibility in terms of remuneration , hiring and firing people, promotion based on merit rather than seniority , I think we will produce a better organisation.”
West said taxpayers should “recognise that we all have a responsibility , we are placing great demands on the Government and the demands don’t decrease with the government’s revenues.”
She also said: “To enable the Government to meet those demands we need to play our part, and if we all play our part then the burden is spread more evenly and it doesn’t fall on a few of us . So the issue of increasing tax rates should not arise if everybody is paying the correct amount of taxes, so that will be my focus.”
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