More than three years after the deputy head of the Inland Revenue Department called the agency’s computer system “outdated” and “unstable,” government is scheduled to introduce a new online tax receivable system next year as part of efforts to streamline collections. The upgraded system, known as the Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System 3.0, is intended to automate the administration of all taxes and licences, according to a June 13 press release.
Commissioner of Inland Revenue Karen Smith-Aaron said in the release that SIGTAS 3.0 is slated to go live in February 2023, and the department is about to embark on a public relations campaign to enhance awareness about the new system, to highlight its benefits, and to encourage businesses and individual taxpayers to register to use it.
The department will focus first on the “re-registration of businesses” and “of all persons of employable age,” according to the press release.
“We need all taxpayers on board,” Ms. Smith-Aaron said. “It is very important that we work together to get the data entered into the system, which will make the entire process run more smoothly.”
Once taxpayers get registered, they will be able to begin paying online when the new system goes live, she said.
An official checklist of all the required information will be available at the online registration link coming sometime this month, she said.
“Taxpayers are at the heart of the new system,” she said. “They are now empowered to view their tax information.”
She explained that the new system enables taxpayers to submit a registration form online, print a registration certificate, query accounts, check unfiled tax periods, track pending requests, and communicate easily with tax authorities through an embedded messaging centre.
Department of Information Technology Director Annabelle Skelton-Malone is teaming up with Inland Revenue on the system.
“We want to assure taxpayers that it is user-friendly and we are in place to offer all the necessary support to facilitate the registration,” she said.
Public officers have been aware of problems with the current system for years.
In a hearing in April 2019, the deputy commissioner of inland revenue, Orris Thomas, called his department’s computer system “outdated, corrupt, unstable and [likely to] crash at any time,” according to a report on that year’s deliberations of the House of Assembly’s Standing Finance Committee.
Mr. Thomas also told legislators that a badly needed new system could cost between $3 million and $5 million, the report stated. The June 13 press release did not state the cost of the new system.
Acting Deputy Financial Secretary Jeremy Vanterpool said in the release that the system upgrade is in alignment with the ongoing e-government initiative that has also seen other online systems introduced with varying levels of success. In February, the much-touted online work permit system at the Department of Labour and Workforce Development went offline indefinitely amid an uproar about a backlog of more than 2,000 applications.
The system had been rolled out last July and billed as the vanguard of the public sector’s planned digital transformation. Initially, it accepted applications for new permits and renewals alike.
However, in December, it stopped accepting renewals, requiring them to be submitted via hard copy instead. In February, it stopped accepting applications for new permits too.
Mr. Vanterpool, however, said in the June 13 press release, “The Ministry of Finance is cognizant that streamlining processes is very important. The upgrade of SIGTAS is just one of the many cogs which will enhance the machinery of government.”
In early April, then-Premier Andrew Fahie boasted that through e-government, service would be enhanced dramatically due to being managed digitally.
“We will increase the efficiency of the services in Customs, Immigration, Labour, police and all government departments and statutory bodies,” he said at the time.