The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has launched the pilot of its on-line tax payment system and its Automated Driver’s Licence Card at a press conference held at its headquarters, Camp Street, Georgetown.
Officials of the GRA explained that the technological move is with the intention to avoid the upcoming congestion which is expected with the approaching deadline for submission of income property tax and other returns on April 30, 2014.
Both initiatives represent another step in the GRA’s efforts towards modernisation, with the use of the latest in Information Technology (IT) as the pillar.
The new tax payment system offers taxpayers the opportunity of making faster tax payments from the comfort and convenience of their home or office for various tax types including personal Income Tax, Property Tax, Corporation Tax and Value-Added Tax. Persons can also purchase their motor vehicle licence.
Currently persons who have accounts with Demerara Bank Limited can make payments while account holders at Republic Bank and Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry will be able to make payments shortly. Additionally, taxpayers can commence the use of the over-the-counter service of the nearest Bill Express and Grace Kennedy locations.
Simultaneously, the GRA launched its new state-of- the-art plastic driver’s licence. The new automated licence card will replace the booklet-form licences. “Instead of the paper licence, our 150,000 drivers will now be holders of this more durable plastic card,” Commissioner-General of the GRA, Khurshid Sattaur said.
The programme is to be conducted in phases, for which the Public Relations Department of the GRA would facilitate the agency’s public education campaign. The programme is expected to be extended to other regions in the near future.
It has however been made clear that for driver’s licences, for now, for conductors and hire cars, and provisional licences, the cardboard licences will remain the same until the system in fully automated. The price will also remain the same until more features are included on the licences.
Security features have been improved on the automated licences, which are expected to be welcomed by taxpayers, and there is the hope to reduce the offering and taking of bribes with this implementation.
The initiative seeks to bring to the public a more convenient and faster payment option as the GRA moves to optimise the use of technology in its provision services, allowing tax payments to be done via the internet or telephone from the comfort of one’s home, office or other suitable location.
The system which is similar to what is already in place by several utility companies for electronic bill payments, will seek to promote a number of noble objectives. Chief among them are to provide more convenience and security for clients who often flock the GRA’s headquarters to conduct business, particularly as due dates approach. It will also relieve congestion in the building, as well as on the streets as it relates to parking.
Sattaur is convinced that the new system will be welcomed by all stakeholders since it will lessen the onerous time customers and clients have to spend and promote security for taxpayers engaged in money transactions.
Accommodation and parking for clients has been an issue the GRA has had to address since the bulk of its operations were consolidated at Camp Street.
“I think this is a great breakthrough. Therefore, to be able to offer this service through the internet… we should be seeing a reduction in the number of persons visiting our office,” Sattaur said.
The two initiatives which have been on the cards for a while, come at a time when taxpayers have often accused the entity of not being transparent. “It would enable the stepping up of anti- corrupt and enforcers’ activities being engaged.”
Sattaur also posited that as the platform becomes more filled with highly integrated technology, the police and other law enforcement agencies that rely on the GRA as a source of information will be able to log on to the GRA system and access needed information.
External assistance was needed to put the system in place since the facilities were not available at the GRA. “We don’t have the facilities to print these cards. The card has to come from overseas as well, it has to be imported,” the Commissioner General said.
“Hopefully with the acceptance from the commercial banks, from other external agencies and parties that intermingle with us, we’re going to have a greater level of acceptance of the card, the replacement, perhaps, of a photo ID; and then later on we are going to have more features, bar code and all of that,” he added.
After completing the electronic registration process, the applicant will be required to return in three to five working days. This period is necessary to facilitate the verification of highly sensitive data provided and members of the public are asked to return in an effort to prevent congestion at GRA’s headquarters and the unnecessary waste of their time. Applicants are also reminded to ensure their licences are renewed before the date of expiration.
Most of the services that the GRA will be offering this year are as a result of the great strides it has made in information technology. While this has rendered the GRA as a more efficient organisation in providing services to the public, it is equally to be expected that the fight to combat the scourge of tax evasion will take on a more serious level with those who have been evading honouring their obligation being now seriously challenged to comply.
Sattaur said the next step will be to issue the automated photo licence to various members of society on a renewal basis in the first instance, then to new licence holders.