By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEW Zealand Value Added Tax (VAT) experts emphasised yesterday that a strong education campaign and “virtually no exemptions” are responsible for their country’s successful implementation of VAT.
John Shewan, an Adjunct Professor of Accounting at the Victoria University of Wellington and one of the experts expected to give the Bahamas government a report on implementing VAT next month, said: “The reason our education campaign was so successful was because their was a commitment to an 18-month educational programme, six months of which was prior to the implementation date, but the most important things happened 12 months after the implementation because there were a series of detailed explanation programmes targeted at all kinds of groups.”
He added that ideally, the Bahamas government, which is still seeking reports from the private sector before finalising its VAT plan, should actively promote VAT only when the tax’s design has been finalised.
He said it took six months of intense education programmes before VAT was implemented in New Zealand following the finalisation of its makeup and legislation.
Don Brash, the former governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, added that the compliance cost of VAT is low in New Zealand because “everything was taxed at the same rate and virtually no exemptions were given.”
VAT exemptions are sometimes made for certain items and services in order to alleviate the burden that the “regressive” tax may have has on the poor.
However, the New Zealand tax consultants said the government should seek other ways of helping the poor.
To help the poor of New Zealand, he said the country’s government makes direct payments to low income families through tax credits.
The question of who deserves those credits, however, is controversial, he said.
“If you have a large number of exemptions your rate has to be higher. With a smaller number of exemptions the rate will be lower. We found that the one rate, no exemptions framework worked extremely well,” said Mr Brash.
The two experts said that ultimately New Zealand’s government recorded a revenue intake that far exceeded its expectations following their tax reform.