IRB: 'Spotlight should be on committee'

NST NEWSDESK

THE Inland Revenue Board (IRB), which confirmed yesterday that RM14.56 billion in the Tax Refunds Trust Fund (TRTF) is unaccounted for, says the microscope should largely be on the Finance Ministry’s Cash Management Committee. IRB said on its part, all monies collected from taxpayers were duly transferred to the government’s consolidated fund.

The board concurred with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who brought the matter to light, that there were 1,653,786 cases of companies, individuals, societies and foundations who were owed RM16.046 billion in outstanding tax refunds.

Of the amount, RM4.6 billion involved cases going back more than six years.

The amount for cases that were between four and five years old is RM3.54 billion, and RM.13 billion for cases going back two and three years.

Cases going back a year totalled RM1.8 billion.

An insider with the country’s largest revenue collector revealed to the New Straits Times that IRB had, in fact, been applying for the exact sum needed to refund taxpayers who had overpaid to IRB all these years.

“But each time we submit our application at the monthly meetings with the committee chaired by the Treasury secretary-general, IRB will be given no more than a third of the amount requested. There were occasions though, where we nearly got half of what we asked for.

“The justification given to the board was always that there is insufficient funds,” the insider said.  

This was confirmed by IRB chief executive officer Datuk Seri Sabin Samitah, who, in a statement yesterday, said: “The deferred refund payout was mainly due to insufficient funds in TRTF.

“During each of these monthly meetings chaired by the former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, IRB would give an update on the latest credit balance needed to be refunded to taxpayers.

“IRB would then request for funds to be transferred into TRTF so that the refunds could be done,” Sabin said, adding that this was also done through formal written applications to the ministry.

The insider, in arguing why IRB should not be the focus of the ongoing criminal breach of trust probe, said: “IRB does not even have its own bank account... every sen is sent to the Treasury, just as with monies collected from the Goods and Services Tax.

“Refunding taxpayers’ money is very much dependent on how fast the committee responds to us and how much is given to IRB, but of course, when we get it, we will prioritise individuals first,” he said, adding that this was why his chief executive officer had explained in the statement why payouts to individuals were given priority.

Another insider, in reacting to NST’s frontpage yesterday that IRB was being probed for CBT, said those in the committee should have a lot to say as they were privy to the movement of funds that were credited by IRB.

“Most of the board members were surprised that they were to be probed as many are not involved in its day-to-day operations. Could this be because the former Treasury secretary-general chaired both the IRB board and the committee?” IRB yesterday said it would consider the finance minister’s call to allow taxpayers with outstanding tax refunds from IRB to make an application to offset the amount against the tax payable for the current year.

“For those who do not apply for the off-set, their refunds will be made depending on the TRTF allocation approved by the government and the country’s financial situation. Taking into consideration the government’s financial situation due to the RM1 trillion national debt, the minister is trying to find the money to make refunds this year, or the subsequent year.”

He also told taxpayers, especially those in the corporate sector, to try and avoid making excess payments. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd