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Tax dodgers beware

Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz yesterday warned tax dodgers to beware as Govt is making aggressive moves to recoup funds owed to them.

Updating MPs on the status of monies in arrears, he said he was stunned when he learned that it was as high as $5.9 million as of April 2012.

Mr Moniz said: “I was just as perturbed as to why this debt was allowed to grow this large over the years without some action being taken to mitigate further losses, which by default placed the Government in an even worse financial situation.”

He noted that in other jurisdictions around the world, “the Government is usually the first considered by the taxpayer, as they are quite aware of the repercussions otherwise”.

But he said: “In Bermuda this seems to be the exact opposite where the Government appears to be last on the list. With that said I am hopeful that my colleague who is responsible for Finance will consider steps to change this paradigm in the not too distant future, as this attitude is simply unacceptable and this debt is unsustainable.”

The Minister stated that a Finance team has been “focused on creating and implementing a sustainable debt collection process and strategy that includes revisions to the current procedures”.

“A clerk has also been dedicated to focus primarily on collection, disconnection notices, calls to customers to encourage them to address their arrears, referrals to the debt collection section with the Accountant General’s Department, to the commencement of court proceedings as a last resort,” said Mr Moniz.

“This aggressive approach by the Finance team over the past few months seems to be achieving its objective as customers are coming in on a regular basis to either pay off their arrears in total, or agree to payment plans that will also permit them to function while paying down their debt.

“Although I am not completely satisfied with the rate at which the arrears are coming down, I am pleased to advise that the receivables for the Ministry stood at $5.1 million as of April 30, 2013. One area in particular, the water receivables, indicates that the debt now stands at $2.08 million, down by 13 percent since January. The initial focus was on the water truckers, with 80 percent of them now current.”

Now, he said the focus has shifted to domestic and commercial customers. “This process involves providing selected customers who are over 90 days in arrears with a termination notice and 30 days to pay in the first instance,” he added.

“Should there be no effort on behalf of the customer, these same customers will have their water turned off. Once the customer brings their account current — their service will be restored.”

Other figures provided included refuse receivables which stands at $3.02 million, as of April 1, with no significant change over the last six months. And a part-time collector “who is very familiar with the industry”, will come on board to help alleviate the arrears situation in this area.

“The goal by September is to have the debt reduced by an additional 25 percent,” he said. He also encouraged “all those customers who owe money” to his Ministry “to make every effort to reach out to either pay what is owed, or agree to a payment plan moving forward”.

On the 3.5 million gallons of water not paid for by residents by the Malabar and Kitchener Close Condominium Association he said the debt has increased by over $25,000.

A meeting was held on Monday with the new members of the association “who have committed to presenting a realistic plan in the coming weeks that they believe will permit them to pay down their debt as well as sustain them moving forward”.

“We are scheduled to meet the second week in June at which point, I shall be presented with the revised plan for consideration. I also reminded them that this plan had to include addressing the non-compliant residents,” he said.

“In turn I was informed that the association had taken steps such as sending a letter to all owners informing them of seven days notice to pay their arrears or risk being shut off — to improving their record keeping with regard to reading the water meters of each unit to determine the actual water usage. This would ensure those using more water would pay for the same.”

Mr Moniz concluded: “This should not be a political football as we are merely doing the business of the people of Bermuda. If no one pays their bill, the country will continue to go further into debt.

“The people of Bermuda have tasked this Government with turning the situation around, and that’s exactly what we are trying to do.”

Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz

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Published June 01, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 31, 2013 at 11:01 pm)

Tax dodgers beware

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