On January 8, 2019, I received a letter from the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) advising that my returns for the income years 2013 and 2017 were under examination. I submitted my income tax returns electronically, via e-Tax, they were assessed, approved, and I received my refunds in the mail.
The assessment notices were signed by the commissioner, Board of Inland Revenue.
Subsequently, the BIR decided to audit my account and discovered that they made an error in assessing my travelling expenses and therefore overpaid my refunds for the years 2013 to 2016.
Being compliant, I met the BIR and supplied all the required documentation within the amnesty period. The audit on my travelling claim was completed in December 2019 and I was advised of the outstanding liability, which amounted to $44,846.31, of which $25,702.31 was interest! Immediately I requested to have the interest waived.
Firstly, I was told it takes two years for such a request to be considered, then I was told a waiver of the liability and interest is dealt with by different units and, ultimately, I was slapped with a letter from Collections/Enforcement for the full amount in February 2020.
Under those circumstances, I decided to write to the Commissioner of Taxpayer Services and Processing. In that correspondence, I sought to alert the commissioner to my predicament, inclusive of my retrenchment from The University of Trinidad and Tobago, the financial challenges being faced, and the fact that job prospects were difficult.
I am experiencing reduced (now, zero) liquidity, with six dependants, four of whom are infants. As such, I requested that in the least “...the assessed interest of $25,702.31 is waived based on the fact that I only became aware of the situation with the travelling claims from January 2019 and made every effort to cooperate and comply with the audits until their completion in December 2019”.
While by letter dated May 13, 2020, the esteemed commissioner (ag) advised inter alia: “Please note that consideration for a waiver in interest is not entertained usually until the principal amount is paid in full,” in letter dated July 15, 2020, she indicated the Board of Inland Revenue does not refund interest after it has been paid.
This was after I was slapped with a Garnishee Order from the BIR for the full amount which was applied to the remainder of my severance benefits.
As I indicated to the Hon Minister of Education in a recent letter, “...I met with the manager of the San Juan branch of Scotiabank and a representative from Maritime Insurance on Monday, October 5, 2020, to explain the circumstances which have led to me being unable service my mortgage loan with the bank and insurance premiums. By the end of this month, I project that I will be having similar conversations with Tatil Insurance, First Citizens and Venture Credit Union”.
In a situation in which I was questionably retrenched and in the height of a global pandemic, my children and I just cannot afford to pay for the BIR’s errors... with interest.
Phillip Lennard Robinson
retrenched registrar (UTT)