A number of bills that were passed at last Friday’s House Sitting went before the Senate today and the one that attracted most commentary and concern is the Tax Administration and Procedure Bill, which proposes among other things, to provide civil and criminal penalties for violating tax laws. Senators raised concern that the Bill places serious liability on company managers.
Michel Chebat, PUP Senator
“We see the net been broadening and we see that not only is the tax payer entity responsible but also the managers of these entities are now being made responsible for the payment of tax but hey guess what there is a comfort zone because ones they collected from the manager, the manager can then turn around and can sue the entity.”
Markhelm Lizarraga, Business Senator
“And I share your concern Senator Chebatt about the ramifications and implications and burdens and liability, potential liability that could now be placed on managers and even accountants the way I read it I am not a legal expert but the are far reaching implications now and perhaps that is needed to be clearly articulated so that people can understand their roles before they become liable.”
Senator Valerie Woods
“This is very concern and it says: if an entity fails to pay tax on time, on time, every person who is or has been a manager of that said entity at any time since the relevant time, meaning the time that either to pay the tax or if it is an assessment issue is jointly and severely liable with that entity and every other such person for the payment of the tax and that what I just read applies irrespective of whether the entity ceases to exist so if the company fouls and it goes on to say that it does not apply to a manager who has exercise the degree of care, diligence and skill that a reasonable prudent person in the position of the manager would have exercise in preventing that initial and continuing failure to pay tax so if the company fails to pay the tax on time cause that is how it starts on the first sub-section one are you saying to the people of Belize that the manager in charge of that company is held personally liable for it if it means that, that would send some shock waves to the employment crew in this country now the response has been well as long as you do everything by the law and you tried then you shouldn’t have no worries but I think you should be realistic here.”
Michael Peyrefitte, Senator/Attorney General
“You don’t want to be in trouble with the tax people then pay your taxes, if you cheat on your taxes or you try to evade taxes then you have every reason to be afraid of this new piece of legislation. If you know that you are a manager especially if you are a finance officer you then have to start to document your people who you need information from to be able to file your taxes so if you are a manager you need to tell everybody who else is a manger including the owners, directors or whoever listen to me taxes are due end of the month we need to file end of the month, I need this, this, and this from you and if everybody does that then we know exactly who the problem is in the company and that is why you have section 50 that says this does not apply to a manager who has exercise the degree of care diligence and skill, you have demonstrated that you have done all that you could do to make sure the company pay its taxes on time if you can demonstrate that then you are home free and dry, then you are not responsible because there is so much the law recognizes that you have the power to do, what we are trying to eliminate with this piece of legislation Mr. President is for people to stop playing victims, if people are not doing their jobs based on what is required by the law then expose them.”
Lead Opposition Senator Michel Chebat also raised concern that the law circumvents a businesses’ ability to challenge a tax assessment beyond the Supreme Court but Senator Hulse clarified that such right exists under the new law.