In the past few days we have seen a number of statements on the economy including a rather enlightening one on the setting up of a body to review all forms of taxation.
Having served as the chairman of a UK Government Finance Committee and twice spoken in the Conservative Party Conference Economics debates, there is one conclusion I reached - governments make tax collection too complicated. They seem to think that by collecting a little tax here and a little tax there and a bit more from over there, the public don't notice how much they are being taxed and that the 'pain' is more widely spread.
There are two problems with this point of view. Firstly, the public knows exactly how much it's being charged regardless of the way it is wrapped up and, secondly and more importantly, collecting lots of little bits of tax is inefficient and costly particularly in a country as small as Antigua & Barbuda.
This Tax Policy Review Task Force should be looking to simplify the taxation system together with shifting taxation away from 'coverall' taxes like import duties and ABST (but not eliminating them), which hit rich and poor alike, to more targeted taxes such as property tax, income tax and a cessation of many unnecessary concessions.
Most important of all is the collection of tax. Every country has its evaders but most countries operating a western style taxation system have a sophisticated collection and enforcement system. Antigua & Barbuda is getting better but is still not collecting tax from many individuals and businesses which under the law, should be paying tax. Reform of the tax system is not much good if tax evasion is allowed to continue at current rates.
Antigua & Barbuda is a low tax country yet its population has the aspirations of all developing nations and it will only achieve these aspirations with an equitable and well- developed taxation system.
The target should be the impossible balance of encouraging enterprise whilst providing adequate services for all within a fair taxation system.
Good luck to the Task Force.