Published On: Thu, May 18th, 2023

Who benefits?

By Hilbert Haar

I am not a fiscal expert, let me make that clear from the get go, but I have a simple question. Have you ever wondered why things are the way they are? I ask myself that question a lot and now I think I have found the answer: because some people (and I have no clue who they are) want things to be the way they are.

I have looked for a long time at the endless number of tax warrants that are published in the National Gazette every two weeks. I did not count them but there must be hundreds of them each year. You know what they have in common? Current place of residence unknown.

In other words, the tax inspectorate cannot find these tax payers. Now I read in a report from the General Audit Chamber that these so called ex officio assessments are produced by an automated system. Nobody ever looks at them before they go out the door.

A couple of weeks ago I send some questions to Finance Minister Ardwell Irion about these tax warrants. I am sure the good minister was quite willing to provide me with some answers but these was one major problem: he did not know the answers because the tax inspectorate could not provide him with the relevant information.

How many of these tax warrants does the tax administration issue each year? What is their value? How much, if any, money is ever collected from these warrants. The tax office does not know.

The computer system that generates these warrants is more than twenty years old. It is called SIAH. As far as I have been able to establish, this is (or was) a Brazilian company. It has stopped providing updates for the system so it is safe to say that the tax inspectorate is working with a completely obsolete piece of software.

You may remember that St. Maarten became an autonomous country on October 10, 2010. That is almost thirteen years by now. One would think that this has given the tax inspectorate, or the politicians who determine its fate, have had ample time to improve the situation. We know now that nobody did anything meaningful and all eyes are now on the magical country package that contains measures to improve tax compliance on our island.

Will that finally work? I wonder very much because if there is one thing St. Maarten is good at, it is make plans; executing them, not so much. You’d think that someday somebody will realize that by sticking to this attitude our country is shooting itself in the foot. At the detriment of its people, I’d like to add.

As long as nothing changes the National Gazette will continue to publish useless tax warrants for companies that have long gone and for tax payers that have found a place under the sun in a different jurisdiction.

The question that keeps bothering me now is this one: who benefits? I have no idea.


Related article: Tax office has no grip on ex officio assessments