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Wealthy football hero jailed for tax evasion


The month of March in St Vincent and the Grenadines is “Tax month” for tax-paying citizens, or more kindly advertised by the Inland Revenue Department as “Tax Awareness Month.” Tax returns for the income year ending December 31, 2014, are legally due to be filed by March 31, with penalties for late filing.{{more}}

It is a known fact worldwide that income-earners are less than fond of paying taxes. Yet, whether in rich countries like the USA and Germany, or in small countries such as those in the Caribbean, citizens make heavy demands on governments for services. But governments can only provide those services when there is revenue, and that revenue can only come from various forms of taxes or duties. There can be no services without our contributions.

So, there is indeed need for tax awareness and the Inland Revenue Department must be complimented for its efforts in this regard. We, in turn, must adopt more positive attitudes towards shouldering our share of the burden and must not regard tax-collecting agencies and officers as enemies of ours. They, too, are playing their part in helping to collect the revenue which keeps the ship of state afloat and which provides the wherewithal for service provision.

One big issue, save and above the separate one of the quality of service, is that of apportioning the “fair share.” Workers, especially those in middle-income brackets, complain for instance that they bear an unfair share of the tax burden, since by virtue of being on the payroll, their contributions are taken out even before they touch their salaries.

By contrast, many big revenue earners have their army of accountants to disguise and spirit away earnings, reducing their contributions to the national coffers to the barest minimum. Is this fair? Should the most wealthy have the luxury of all the various loopholes, legal and otherwise, while hard-working employees have no such recourse?

It is a big issue worldwide and many countries are moving to tackle the problem; hence the emphasis on financial intelligence and surveillance of big transactions. Offshore banks, Swiss bank accounts and money-laundering are a fact of life. But authorities are catching up.

In what must surely be a SIGN OF THE TIMES, last week, the biggest name in German club football, Uli Hoeness, president of the mega-club Bayern Munich, himself a former German World Cup star, and a multi-millionaire sausage factory owner, was jailed for three and a half years for tax evasion. He had siphoned earnings through Swiss banks and failed to declare to avoid tax.

Could we imagine this happening in the Caribbean? When will we witness such approaches, that we too can claim it is a good SIGN OF THE TIMES?