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Respect my privacy, integrity as a tax payer

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EDITOR: I am hoping that you would find the space to publish this letter, which I am writing partly as a civic duty as a Vincentian national, and partly to set the record straight concerning a continuing problem with Inland Revenue and the Kingstown Town Board over my house and land taxes.

On Monday, February 14, it was brought to my attention that my name (and that of my daughter with whom I co-own a property in Cane Garden) was aired on the national radio station for property arrears. Fortunately, I have in my possession all receipts and cancelled cheques for prompt and full payments dating back to the year I purchased this property, and the matter was clarified with the Kingstown Town Board later that day. {{more}}

In 2000, I received a letter dated August 16, from Inland Revenue requesting payment for three years’ arrears of house/land taxes for this property, as well as the penalties incurred for late payment. Ironically, a few days earlier, I had received a letter from the Kingstown Town Board, dated August 11, 2000, acknowledging payment in full for taxes paid on July 19, 2000, for the financial year 2000-2001.

I replied promptly to the Inland Revenue letter explaining that I owed no back taxes for my property and that my taxes were always paid to the Kingstown Town Board at the start of each financial year. In my letter, I enclosed as evidence all Kingstown Board receipts, letters acknowledging payment in full, and cancelled personal cheques for the years in question. I subsequently received an apology from Inland Revenue for the error and was assured that the matter had been duly rectified.

There are two issues at stake here. The first pertains to the fact that, ultimately, there will be a serious lack of credibility and confidence in the State’s two main tax collection agencies if errors continue to be made about their methods of tax collection and record keeping. I accept the premise that mistakes do happen from time to time, but if they repeat themselves, there is a problem. And it is on this premise that, prior to publicly announcing alleged tax defaulters, the Inland Revenue Department and the Kingstown Town Board should check thoroughly to avoid unnecessary embarrassment to those who pay their taxes promptly.

Secondly, there is the element of public relations. Since mistakes do happen, wouldn’t it be better to send letters to perceived tax defaulters querying whether taxes have been paid promptly and asking that these be paid up where this has not been done, rather than making public announcements, many of which may never be heard? In any event, I would think that taking a less embarrassing and adversarial route may have more positive effects in letting the public realize that these taxes are necessary for the maintenance and efficient functioning of their community and that prompt payment helps to do so.

I shall continue to pay my taxes in a timely manner. I can only ask that the Kingstown Town Board and the Inland Revenue Department do their part in respecting my privacy and integrity as a tax payer in good standing.

Sincerely,

Cecile O. Comp (Ms.)

CC

* Comptroller of Inland Revenue

* Warden, Kingstown Town Board

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