Rev and Tax director discusses improvements, pandemic challenges

Steve Limtiaco, Pacific Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK
Published 3:52 p.m. ChT Nov. 10, 2020


The Department of Revenue and Taxation has recently seen people come in to inquire and apply for bed-and-breakfast and short-term vacation rental license, Acting Director Dafne Shimizu said after Thursday morning’s confirmation hearing.

Pacific Daily News

The Department of Revenue and Taxation this year purchased 80 new computer work stations for its employees, some of whom had been using equipment that was more than 10 years old, according to agency Director Dafne Shimizu, who said the old equipment made it difficult for employees to communicate and to process tax returns.

Rev and Tax plans to purchase more computers and make other improvements using $6 million in federal pandemic relief funding, Shimizu told the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay. Those “enhancements” to Rev and Tax operations should be in place by early next year, she said.

Shimizu was guest speaker at the club’s meeting Tuesday, held via Zoom conference.

Among other things, she discussed how the pandemic has affected agency operations and its interaction with the public. Although Rev and Tax allowed walk-in service when it first reopened in May, the current pandemic condition of readiness has been challenging, she said.

“Our goal is to continue to operate… while balancing out the health and safety of our people,” she said. “We have a huge role to play, not just in people’s personal lives… but also in business.”

“Over the last several months we’ve implemented and adopted new processes for serving our people during this public health emergency,” she said, “In particular, we’ve begun to convert as many processes as possible to drop-box and mail-in format.”

As an example, driver’s licenses and driving permits can be issued and renewed by mail, and the agency in late September resumed issuing new business licenses.

“We’re continuing to work to try to identify those items we can accept by drop-box or mail,” she said.

She said online vehicle registration, which has been available for several years, is one of the agency’s “success stories,” not only because it is more convenient but has reduced the number of people who need to visit the Rev and Tax offices.

Shimizu said there are about 100,000 registered vehicles on Guam, and in 2017 about 4,000 of those vehicles were registered online. That number increased to 6,000 registrations in fiscal 2018 and nearly 9,000 in fiscal 2019, she said. That number more than doubled, to 20,646 registrations, during the most recent fiscal year, she said.

Some Rotarians had questions about the enforcement of licenses, including what reportedly are gypsy cabs operating out of Upper Tumon.

Shimizu said those types of concerns should be reported to Rev and Tax so they can be addressed.

Shimizu said Rev and Tax has only five compliance officers, including a supervisor, to enforce laws related to business licenses, essential business activity during the pandemic and the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The compliance officers also will be responsible for enforcing the requirements of the recreational cannabis industry, Shimizu said, adding Rev and Tax has proposed adding four more compliance officers this fiscal year.

The recreational cannabis law charges a 15% excise tax on the sale of cannabis by cultivators. Half of that money is earmarked for Rev and Tax and other government agencies responsible for monitoring the recreational cannabis industry.

Public hearings on the proposed rules and regulations for the cannabis industry are scheduled for next week.

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