CASTRIES, St Lucia, June 28, CMC – Prime Minister Kenny Anthony has told lawmakers here his administration needs to collect 36 million EC dollars (13.5 million US dollars) hoteliers owe from a tax they collect from guests.
Anthony told the House of Assembly that while government was hard-pressed to finding millions of dollars to promote the island and its tourism product, hoteliers were sitting on huge sums in back taxes.
He told lawmakers he he needed to understand why the hotel industry has an outstanding tax liability of 36 million dollars.
“How do we explain that?” Anthony asked. “Mind you these are taxes – hotel occupancy tax – that are imposed on guests or holiday packages that are collected but not yet remitted. Why do we allow that to happen?” the prime minister inquired.
He also criticized the authorities for neglecting to prosecute tax defaulters.
“I have no affection for tax but I understand it is necessary,” the prime minister said. “There is an innate resistance to the payment of taxes in the country, a culture the state is partly responsible for.
“When persons do not pay taxes as required by law the state turns a blind eye.”
He said that the failure to collect taxes was costing Castries tens of millions of dollars which could have gone into projects and services for the country.
“Despite the fact that St. Lucians are aware of the reality that the country cannot do without taxes, which is what the state relies on to provide the services it provides for the people, they still try to dodge paying their taxes,” he said.
While Anthony did not provide an explanation for the state of tax collection, he said that the government machinery has a major part to play in a situation where people, organizations and businesses openly flout the tax laws of the land.
Anthony, who is also the finance minister, cautioned that the government has to take responsibility for allowing a tax-dodging culture to germinate and take hold in St Lucia.