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Debt collection efforts could have started decades ago

In arrears: the Government is owed (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Dear Sir,

Two months ago, the Progressive Labour Party government announced a new scheme to collect overdue taxes. There was some criticism because the people to be used were not experienced nor registered as an agency. As a matter of fact, they were complete unknowns.

I would like to educate both you and the public on this ongoing and apparently tolerated situation.

There has only been one useful, long term collection agency in Bermuda in my lifetime. Its staff are Bermudian and they have certified, registered debt collectors. Realising the enormity of taxpayer debt to successive governments, they approached David Saul in 1984 and offered to take over the collection process. They were ignored. The commission they were asking for was ten per cent . They did not just make this one time offer, they followed it up every four or six months. They approached every single finance minister after that right up to 2017, until the moving force retired, to no avail. There was only one finance minister who took them seriously and that was Eugene Cox. He was in favour, as one would have expected from a man of integrity. I understand he passed it on to civil servants who resisted putting it in place. In the meantime, Eugene Cox died.

Interestingly, Heather Jacob Matthews became Auditor-General and sent a letter, on government letterhead, requesting to start the programme in the new year and to meet with the Tax Commissioner at the time, a Mr Creighton. He showed a sample of some of the government debt, over $200 million (a sample!). What was revealed was staggering and explained the reason no government is willing to collect for fear of losing votes. Some of the people and businesses guilty of not paying their share would be a real eye-opener.

Mrs Matthews became ill and retired and the whole affair came to a halt. The debt to the Government is huge, more than they will ever admit. It could even approach a billion dollars. I myself have seen individuals receive bills for years and just ignore them. Can you imagine the cost of billing in man hours and materials? It makes a mockery of the whole system if it goes on with impunity. There are individuals in Bermuda who have never paid land tax since its inception! This is just as bad as employers who take money out of pay cheques for health insurance and pensions etc and never pay for them.

I don't know where it will all end, but it is obvious to me that a bankrupt country can not ignore anything that will reduce its debt.

DUNCAN MORAN

St George’s

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Published July 07, 2021 at 10:57 am (Updated July 07, 2021 at 10:59 am)

Debt collection efforts could have started decades ago

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