15 November, 2017, 12:00 am
THE Fijian Government has put in place quite a number of tax and Customs policies that have led to the increase in tax and Customs revenue collection over the years.
The introduction of VAT self-assessment, VAT monitoring system, electronic filing, electronic payments, tax compliance letters ensures a robust tax system that is directed towards voluntary compliance.
This is the principal goal of any tax system in the world. Lately the Fiji Revenue & Customs Service (FRCS) has been putting a lot of efforts in ensuring that it continues to build the trust of stakeholders, taxpayers and the public through continuous and effective partnership.
As we talk about effective partnership in this week’s article, we will look at how the whistleblower policy has been used over the years by individuals as a way to effectively report to FRCS tax and customs illegal activities.
The whistleblower policy is one that every individual can use to report on tax and Customs law breakers regardless of their status in life.
The whistleblowing policy encourages members of the public to report or disclose any fraudulent acts, unethical behavior, breaches of FRCS legislation, regulations and policies committed by any company or business person, including any aspect of service provision, or the conduct of officers or any member of FRCS.
A whistleblower should make disclosures without fear of victimisation or subsequent discrimination or disadvantage.
It is somewhat different from just raising a complaint; the advantage of this policy is that it is an avenue where cash reward is given to a whistleblower whose claims are substantiated.
How to raise a concern?
Every individual may raise their concern in writing, by telephone email or in person to the office of the CEO.
A whistleblower, other than persons who are not FRCS staff who wish to remain anonymous, must identify and submit the following:
* The back ground and history of the concern (giving relevant dates); and
* The reason(s) he or she is particularly concerned; you can call the CEO on 9907740
* Documentary or physical evidence whether direct or indirect of the concern or complaint.
* Telephone contacts and names if possible.
Any disclosure(s) made, against the FRCS chief executive officer and board members must be raised directly with the Minister of Economy or the chairperson of the FRCS board.
Disclosures made against the chairperson of the FRCS board must be raised directly with the Minister of Economy copied to the FRCS chief executive officer.
All concerns will be treated, as far as possible, in the strictest confidence and every effort not to reveal the identity of the whistleblower if he or she so wishes.
However, the discretion of the CEO will pertain to the seriousness of the breach and where the whistleblower’s concerns require any further action, he or she, may at some future date must act as a witness or to provide evidence.
The whistleblower reward matrix is assessed on eight factors with different weightings.
The factors are grouped into three primary and five secondary factors.
The primary factors (PF) are related to the significance, reliability and degree of information received which led to the successful net revenue gain.
Each of the respective primary factors must attain a score of more than zero.
The secondary factors (SF) are related to the timeliness and the level of assistance provided by the whistleblower which led to tax compliance and resource savings.
An independent team shall conduct due diligence and as such relevant auditors/investigators will be consulted during the process before a whistleblower reward is determined.
It is evident in the given table that the whistleblower trend has increased over the years, this shows that more individuals have used this policy to effectively raise issues with FRCS.
In the past months the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service had made a payment of $250,000 to a whistleblower whose information led to the successful recovery of some $8 million dollars in taxes and penalties from a company in the Western Division.
This is the highest reward so far for any whistleblower and reflects the FRCS commitment to clamp down hard on tax evaders.
The case involved a company engaged in the motor vehicle industry manipulating its sales record and under declaring for VAT and income taxation.
Following the information provided by the whistleblower, FRCS carried out detailed investigation with the sales reported in the company’s tax returns and bank account where major discrepancies were noted.
Employees are often the first to realise that there may be something wrong within their organisation.
Normally, employees would be expected to raise any concerns initially with their line manager.
However, they may not express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the organisation.
They may also fear harassment, discrimination or victimisation.
In these circumstances it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may just be suspicion of misconduct.
The whistleblower policy will proceed on confidential basis and will reassure employees that they will be protected by FRCS from possible retaliations of any sort if there exists reasonable belief that disclosures made, have been made in good faith.
If what a whistleblower alleges is true, or his or her suspicions are reasonable, he or she will have nothing to fear because he or she, will be performing their respective duty to FRCS and to those for whom he or she are providing a service.
In fact, a whistleblower may be making himself or herself vulnerable if he or she does not raise the necessary alarm to FRCS.
The Fiji Revenue & Customs Service will not tolerate or allow any form of harassment, victimisation or discrimination including informal pressures, direct or indirect use of authority as FRCS will take appropriate action to protect a whistleblower when he or she, raises a concern in good faith.
If there are any intimidation, threats or instances of harassment, victimisation or discrimination against a “whistleblower” FRCS will take appropriate disciplinary action against the individual concerned.
Any investigation conducted into allegations of potential misconduct or related matters will not influence or be influenced by any disciplinary or redundancy procedures that is already affecting the person who blew the whistle.
If a whistleblower makes an allegation in good faith, no action will be taken against the whistleblower.
If, however, he or she makes an allegation frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain, a separate investigation may be carried out and if necessary, disciplinary action taken against the whistleblower by FRCS.
There shall be zero tolerance from the Fiji Revenue & Customs Service on such behavioral intentions.
Reporting whistleblower cases
Members of the public are encouraged to report any Customs or tax evasions or any unprofessional conduct in relations to FRCS officers thorough our whistleblower line. The FRCS Whistleblower line is 3243222. Complaints can also be lodged through email : firstname.lastname@example.org or Letter addressed to the CEO or simply by reporting it in person. Taxpayers can also directly call the FRCS CEO on 9907740 to lodge complaints.
The Fiji Revenue & Customs Service is here to administer the tax and Customs laws and it is our duty to ensure fairness and consistency in the application of the law to ensure that we are creating a level playing field for all taxpayers.