Sept. 6, 2001 – Former Sen. Anne Golden didn't mince words Thursday about taxpayers' "sacred dollars."
Golden was one of two members of the territorial Republican Party who filed a class-action suit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday seeking to force the V.I. government to issue federally mandated income tax-credit checks. "The administration is displaying a total disregard for federal law," she said."I'm shocked that members of this administration would be engaged in defying federal law. I've not known them to be lawbreakers."
Federal law states the Internal Revenue Service tax-credit payments must be issued by Dec. 31. The Virgin Islands has a separate tax structure that reflects that of the IRS and is bound by its laws.
"Our local tax structure mirrors the federal Internal Revenue Service," Golden noted. "We chose that. If we wanted our own tax code, we could have written it a long time ago."
Golden, a St. Croix Republican, and Leo D.Goubourn, a St. Thomas party member, filed the suit on behalf of all V.I. taxpayers in the effort which was spearheaded by the party.
She said money for the tax-credit payments should be included in the V.I. government's Fiscal Year 2002 budget. "When you are managing other people's money, it's what's called a constructive trust," she said. "It's not the government's money to spend. It must be released to the people."
Golden said she was surprised recently by two things: First, that the supplemental budget appropriations bill Gov. Charles W. Turnbull sent to the Legislature in June didn't include an amount to cover the tax-credit payments; and second, that senators didn't say "We're missing something here" when they saw the bill.
(A prominent member of the V.I. Republican Party, and a force behind the class-action lawsuit, Michael Bornn, has said that the money owed taxpayers should not be budgeted or legislated — that it should come off the top of any government surplus before a budget is developed.)
"The government can't treat this the way they have refunds in the past, "Golden said, "They can't just ignore it."
Louis Willis, Internal Revenue Bureau director, has said his personnel do not have the time required to process the tax-credit payments now. Golden said on Thursday that it is his job as director to make time, and "he has to spare no resources." Willis also has said the government doesn't have the money to issue the checks at this time.
Golden said she didn't know "how he is going to determine who is eligible," but added, "If he's not going to pay it, it has to go on the books as a liability plus interest in the 2002 budget as a debt." And that, she said, raises the question of how interest on past-due tax credits will be calculated if payment is not made by the federal deadline.
Willis has said that instead of issuing tax-credit checks, the IRB will let taxpayers claim the credit when they calculate their 2001 income-tax returns, which are due April 15, 2002.
Golden, who served one term as a senator, in the 23rd Legislature, said that body recognized that taxpayer refunds are "sacred dollars." She said she and her colleagues had worked hard to get income-tax refunds for taxpayers who were due them from years earlier. The refunds were paid out of the proceeds from a $300 million bond issue the legislature approved. "We had lost millions with interest on those refunds," she said. "We had to pick up the pieces and pay the people back."
According to the former senator, the purpose of the tax-credit payment program — to stimulate the economy — is especially critical for St. Croix. "We'll never know the impact of the tax cut if it's not paid," she said.
The Republicans' lawsuit names Willis, the Internal Revenue Bureau, the V.I. government and Gov. Charles W.Turnbull. For additional information, see the previous Source stories "Republicans file suit for tax-credit payments" and "For Virgin Islanders, checks are not in the mail".


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