Individuals and businesses will be given six months starting in July to clear tax arrears in order to receive an exemption on accumulated interest and penalty fees, under the condition that the main tax liability is settled, said a top official.
The Minister of Finance, Naadir Hassan, told reporters on Tuesday that a new amnesty programme being put forth by the Seychelles Revenue Commission (SRC) is an incentive for those who are having difficulties settling their tax payments due to penalties.
Hassan said that the initiative intends to help the government collect quick revenue in this time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister also announced that the Revenue Administration Act will be reviewed to include a provision for a write-off of tax debt.
"The provision will be more of an exception rather than a norm. The provision will state clearly under which special condition that a tax debt could be waived off. There would be a process established to ensure that there is no abuse. Also to ensure transparency, when a decision is taken to write off, a notice will be published so that if there is an objection anyone can do so," said Hassan.
He highlighted that there are huge payments still in the tax book that have not been settled yet at SRC for various reasons.
"Some look impossible to collect and the debt is always remaining in the tax book as there is no current law to allow a write-off. Henceforth, the provision in the law will help to settle this once and for all," said Hassan.
According to SRC, there is a record of SCR1.034 billion ($63 million) in terms of tax debt and 50 percent of this amount is expected to be covered under the amnesty programme.
Seylina Verghese, director general in the policy division at SRC, said that the condition attached to waive off interest will also depend on the date of payment.
"From July to August, SRC would waiver 75 percent of interest. If it is being paid from September to November, we would waive off 50 percent and if it is from November, we would only take out 25 percent. Whereas interest, we would remove 100 percent regardless date of payment within the 6 months given," said Verguese.
Three group categories are being targeted under this programme and this includes tax payers who have lodged their returns but have never paid, those that have under-declared their payments, and those that have never lodged, added Verghese.
She said that "once the programme is completed, SRC would now have more time to focus on those that are still not paying."
On her side, the Commissioner General of the Seychelles Revenue Commission, Veronique Herminie, said the write-off procedure will be applicable under special circumstances such as if a person is terminally ill, a business facing bankruptcy and undergoing liquidation, and people who had passed away.
Herminie said that taxpayers will not be able to negotiate to pay by installment if they want to waive off the penalties and interest, however, if they still do not pay, SRC will proceed with legal action.
Seychelles, a group of 115 islands, once established an amnesty programme in 2015 whereby the country was able to collect SCR21 million ($1.28million).