Ninety-two per cent of the lawyers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines paid no personal income taxes in 2019, up from 66% the previous year, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said.
He made the disclosure during last week’s budget debate saying that most lawyers are making no contribution to the national coffers.
At the same time, some of them use the courtroom as their political soapbox, the prime minister said.
Gonsalves, a lawyer, said that in the face of demands by some lawyers, he asked tax officials about “how much you all putting in the kitty.
“Because everybody was talking equity. Everybody was talking access. Everybody was saying how the government must do this, the government must do that.”
He said that there are 71 lawyers in SVG, and in 2018, 47 of them paid no personal income tax.
In 2019, of the 71, 65 paid no personal income tax,” the prime minister said.
“Mr. Speaker, but that isn’t the story. In 2018, the average personal income tax paid – one lawyer is $1,898. The highest among paid … was somebody who paid $25,835. Then somebody paid $8,100; somebody paid $19,457; somebody decided that they will put a – it’s shameful, they put a little thing in the kitty $308 in 2018. And they put the same $308 in 2019.”
Gonsalves said he had asked the Comptroller of Inland Revenue to provide him with the figures but not the names of the lawyers.
“I’m very happy I asked for it because I don’t think even the comptroller knew the state of the affairs until the files were got and they did the examination.”
Meanwhile, in terms of tax arrears owed to the government, Gonsalves said:
“I’ll call out some of the numbers: $1.729 million. … $667,000; $535, $661, $214. I ain’t going call anything under $100 because there are so many of those you know… — $791, $210; $128, $1.492 million, $531,000, $2.869 million, $132,000.
“The total arrears is $11.3 million,” Gonsalves said, adding that the figure was enough to make a down payment on the national stadium.
In terms of VAT, Gonsalves said that one person who owes $1.729 million in personal income tax also owes $242,159 in VAT.
“Somebody owe $154,000 in VAT; 34,000 and so on and so forth…
“Come on, you know, equity among equals proportionality among unequals. There are other professionals too but I choose the lawyers because they are the ones who are most outspoken.
“They in the courtroom, they use the courtroom as a place for politics they ain’t talking to the jury or the judge. They turn halfway so and they talking to the crowd. They in the gallery — wha’ Ralph should do and wha’ Ralph shouldn’t do, Mr. Speaker,” the prime minister said.