Venezuela's tax office going after the consumer
The National Tax Superintendent, José Gregorio Vielma Mora, is happy. With Bs.13.5 trillion in taxes having been collected so far, he has almost reached this year’s goal of Bs.15 trillion established in the budget.
One of the ways the Seniat will be using to achieve the goal will be to deploy 1,021 tax officers at the doors of stores to check consumers as they leave and make sure they have been given their invoices.
The fact that the Seniat is trying to create a culture of paying taxes among Venezuelans, such as exists in any developed country, should be viewed as something positive. What are questionable, however, are the police methods that the Seniat is using.
In the middle of this year, the Seniat launched an overly severe attack on a group of responsible companies, which included closing down premises for 48 hours for alleged “failures to comply with formalities, such as keeping VAT purchase and sales ledgers.” On that occasion, the companies were not sanctioned for having failed to pay their taxes, but simply because they hadn’t handed in some form or document on time. Yet, in implementing these measures, the Seniat exposed these companies to the disparagement of the international community as though they were tax evaders, which was not the case. Venezuelan businessmen who attend the international business rounds watch, shamefaced, as the Seniat proudly shows a video of its officers pulling down shutters on business premises as part of the “Evasion Zero Plan,” a trophy worthy of a police State
It will come as no surprise, then, if this “film show” were to be extended to include the deployment of more than one thousand officers who, from September 11, will be pouncing on consumers as they leave stores to demand that they show the invoice for their purchases and, if they fail to produce it, to fine them anywhere between one and five Tax Units, depending on the amount of the purchase.
The maximum amount that a consumer can be fined will be Bs.123,500. While it is a good idea to try to educate consumers so that they insist on being given an invoice, imposing excessively high fines is not. And instead of making exaggerated efforts to go after consumers, the government would be better employed explaining what it is doing with the record tax revenues obtained this year, which, added to the high oil revenues thanks to record prices, should already be having an impact in terms of improved public services and on the standard of living of all Venezuelans.
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