…to go after offenders for fines, tax liabilityThe Audit Office of Guyana, having put the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) under the microscope, has revealed in its 2017 report that, as at the end of that year, the tax collection agency had failed to close almost 300 files pertaining to the seizure of goods.The Audit Office report notes that, in 2016, a total of 181 files in regard to seizures from preceding years remained open. For the year 2017, the Audit Office report notes, GRA failed to close 118 files out of 361. It was found that, of these files, two were awaiting legal action and the others had pending sale of seized goods and disposal of assets.Besides these factors, the GRA was also awaiting the payment of fines estimated at a total of $18.2 million. Sections 223 to 227 of the Customs Act require that a file be opened and updated until the matter is closed. This usually includes the prosecution of the accused.“The Head of the Authority explained that the Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) have managed to close 1,222 investigation files, which (leaves) a balance of 299 files to be closed, as (is) required by law. These files are pending sale of seizure, destruction of goods, and payment of Customs duty, taxes and fines,” the report stated.“LEID will continue to make efforts to close these outstanding investigation files. In addition, LEID will continue to locate the offenders regarding payment of the outstanding tax liability and fines, in an effort to have the investigation files closed and dispose of goods in a timely manner,” the Audit Office documented GRA as saying.The Audit Office also noted that several matters are pending legal advice and are presently in the court system.Auditor General Deodat Sharma has recommended that the GRA continue in its efforts to ensure seizure cases are addressed promptly, all outstanding revenue is promptly collected, and files are closed in a timely manner.The Auditor General has also warned that delay in processing seizures can result in goods deteriorating, inhibiting efforts to effect their sale and bring in revenue.GRA has had an active year in relation to seizure of contraband, having only last month seized more than 80,000 litres (17, 597.5 gallons) of smuggled fuel on a vessel. The discovery was made by officers from the LEID. The officers intercepted the ship, MV Plumrose, with a quantity of liquid that was later tested and confirmed to be hydrocarbons in the form of diesel fuel. During a search of the vessel, the officers discovered that even though the intended use of the vessel was for “fishing purposes”, the MV Plumrose was converted for fuel transport.In April, authorities detained shipping vessel ‘Jubilee’ after it was discovered with over 200,000 gallons of suspected smuggled fuel when it entered the Georgetown port. Its officials had failed to disclose to Customs officials that it had fuel, until checks were made. The company eventually struck a deal with the GRA to pay $36 million in taxes.Meanwhile, the GEA had said in April that it has seized in excess of 9000 gallons of gasoline and diesel in the first quarter of the year, with its inspectors having visited 3191 sites and collected 8339 fuel samples.Relative to fuel smuggling statistics in 2017, a total of 11,000 gallons of illegal gasoline and diesel were seized in 29 discoveries in 2017, following 12,882 site visits and 33,891 samples collected. This resulted in six convictions, while compensation was accepted from four individuals in the sum of $1,237,000.The GEA has said it has taken a relentless approach against smuggling, and will be working in close collaboration with its sister agencies to minimise these activities.Over the past year, the GRA has recouped billions of dollars in taxes from seizures and auctions, not only of illegal fuel, but also from breaches in motor vehicle concessions and IDAs; and from commonly smuggled items, which include alcohol, foreign chicken, and mosquito coils.