The Impact of the Internet and E-commerce on Tax Regimes in the Commonweath Caribbean
Most, if not all, of the member states of the Commonwealth Caribbean
derive their right to tax from their Constitutions. Section 48(1)
of the Jamaican Constitution, for example, provides that 'â€¦Parliament
may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Jamaica.'
The Courts have continuously interpreted this right as one that is not
unbridled and therefore, the governments of the region have to take
every step to ensure that enactments do not contravene the provision
of the Constitution. The stance of the Court was aptly put by
Jackson JA in Inland Revenue Commisioners v. Lilleyman "â€¦the courts
need to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizens and
against any stealthy encroachments thereonâ€¦"
The power to tax, therefore, rests upon necessity and is inherent in
any sovereign legislature under its general legislative power. The
necessity being to provide the government with revenue necessary to
meet its expenditure, thus satisfying the social, political and
economic needs of its people. An erosion of the region's tax base will
therefore be an issue of major concern.
Globalization has impacted upon the region and as a result there has
been a concerted thrust by most of the member states, to come together
to attain a sustainable competitive advantage in the international
Perhaps the aspect of globalization that has impacted most on the
region is the Internet and E-commerce. The United States Internet Tax
Freedom Act defines electronic commerce as meaning: "any transaction
conducted over the Internet or through internet access, comprising the
sale, lease, licence, offer, or delivery of property, goods, services,
or information, whether or not for consideration, and includes the
provisions of internet access."
Given the lack of geographical and national boundaries in transactions
conducted over the Internet through E-commerce activities, the problem
of applying the appropriate taxes to these transactions arise.
Mingail argues that existing taxation laws cannot simply be applied
to the complexities of this whole new medium of conducting business.
As a result, "government taxation collectors are lurking in the
digital shadows, wringing their hands at their inability to
effectively collect tax revenue for the millions of dollars of
transaction flowing across borders." Given this problem, innovative
ways have to be sought to get tax these e-commerce activities. One
proposal is to utilize the technology -based systems, for example, one
where a trusted third party, as part of the online transaction,
undertakes the tax calculation and remittal. Before this, or any
other measures, can be implemented, the...