People who try to dodge customs duties at the wharf in Jamestown are cheating other islanders, says the man in charge of preventing tax fraud. And he has a warning for those who try: “You will get caught.”
Peter Henderson has returned to St Helena for a second stint in charge of the customs service, but this time with responsibility for all other taxes as well.
In an interview with Saint FM, he said: I would remind people if they do attempt fraud, as some people have discovered since I came back, they will be caught and if necessary they will be prosecuted.
“There is no such thing as a victimless crime. People might think it’s quite clever to cheat, 200 cigarettes or whatever, but that’s £28. Well, the government has to get that £28 from somewhere else, and it’s normally from you and I in another form of taxation.”
But he said staff were doing a good job in making sure customs duties are paid.
“Nobody can say they get 100%. I would say, thanks to the good staff you have down there, we’re getting 95%.”
He said the high cost of importing goods to the island was not down to customs duties.
“The biggest cost I’ve seen since being away and coming back is the increase in freight costs. That’s what’s really putting up the price. A bag of cement is a good example: the duty is about 40p, the freight’s about £7.”
Customs tariffs were more of a burden in other parts of the world, he said.
You would get charged for general Customs duty on what they call CIF – Carriage Insurance and Freight, which is a total value. In St Helena you don’t. You get actually charged on the price of the goods only, so it cuts down on the tax burden on society that way.”
The collection rate for taxes is also high, he said. “It’s about 98% compliance, which is a great thing.
“Those that don’t comply will get a bill, because we have to be fair to everybody. People who know me know that I treat everybody the same.
“Like everybody else, I don’t like paying taxes, but I do understand that if we want to have schools, if we want to have hospitals, if we want to have roads, well the government has to get money from somewhere.
“The long-term strategy for the government is actually to reduce the tariff.”
But that can only happen, he said, if everybody pays their share in the first place.
Don’t the government get a grant for a lot of these projects, especially for public funds… what does the British government send £60 million pounds to St Helena for?
– Leslie Thomas
So what’s your point, Leslie? There shouldn’t be customs and taxes on St Helena because UK taxpayers should bear all public costs instead? Europe is just at the beginning of what will become the worst economical crisis since WW2. Don’t expect all the aid from the UK and the EU to go on forever. By the way, budgetary aid from the UK amounts to c. £21 million in 2012.
– Bernardo, Europe