WHEN you hold one of the most vilifying positions in society, how does one wake up every morning and live a normal life? Well today’s FITC tells us exactly how she does it whilst loving what she does…oh and whilst being great at it too.
Lana Labadie is a proud Choiseul resident, born and raised.
In person, Labadie is a bright, bubbly, kind hearted and beautiful young woman who loves going out with her nearest and dearest, and with the beautiful and lush countryside at her disposal, there is no shortage of activities for this extrovert.
Her friends and family describe her as an avid reader who is extremely helpful and friendly as well as jovial with an infectious smile.
However her professional life might lead those who don’t know her to immediately have the wrong perception of her. That’s because Labadie is a Tax Officer
Now, it is not just in St. Lucia that people who work with the Inland Revenue Department are reviled. That feeling is spread to tax officers around the globe; however, there is so much to this job that many fail to see, namely the vital necessities of it.
I picked the brains of this tax collecting beauty to get her to tell me some home truths about the job that is an essential task that most people are scared to do and what she had to say just might make you look at tax officers and the Inland Revenue Department in a totally different light.
The VOICE: In general, society does not have a fondness for tax officers or anyone working in the IRD, how does that make you feel?
Lana: To be honest I don’t feel any way about it. It’s just a job. I will admit initially I kept quiet if any tax discussions came up out of work. After approximately 11 years experience and being properly groomed by my department I’m a lot more open for discussion. I’m satisfied knowing I help every client to the best of my ability.
The VOICE: Describe your job to me, because surely it can’t be as bad as society thinks it is.
Lana: I was recently appointed as a Collection Officer for Non- Filers. I contact both individuals and companies whose filing of Personal Income Tax, Contract Tax and Pay as You Earn are not up to date and made arrangements to bring those accounts up to date. My jurisdiction stretches from Micoud to Canaries
The VOICE: Many people overlook the importance of your department as all they seem to think about is the money that is taken away from their salaries. In actuality, how vital is the IRD and the officers like yourself who work there?
Lana: The Inland Revenue Department is responsible for administering the relevant tax laws on behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia. Believe it or not, one of the functions and roles of the department and its officers is to advise the public of their rights and responsibilities as taxpayers. We are NOT monsters. I find it necessary to point out that we officers are also taxpayers and abide by the same tax laws.
The VOICE: Some people have some horror stories about their experiences at the tax office ranging from unpleasant officers, customers owing and being hounded by officers to make payments and that feeling that customers are not important. Have you ever witnessed any of these occurrences and also, do you think that some officers truly live up to the perception?
Lana: I can only speak for myself. I try my best to be courteous and polite at all times regardless of the situation. However, if any tax payer has such experiences at the department I recommend that they go through the relevant channels and make it known.
The VOICE: What would happen to our island or any society if tax officers and the IRD ceased to exist?
Lana: No tax officers, means no tax administration. This in turn leads to no collection of revenues which leaves us with the question: How else will the government fund important projects such as health care systems, education systems, court systems to name a few? So I’m hoping I don’t sound biased if I say to the society that without us and proper tax administration, St. Lucia will not be as modern as it is today, society will be unsafe, unhealthy and uneducated.
The VOICE: Have you ever encountered any animosity from members of the public either at work or whilst out?
Lana: Yes, I do all the time. But I am used to it. If it comes to the point where I need to walk away and ignore a situation or encounter, I will do just that. Sometimes I would be at parties and then someone will want to speak to me about their refund.
The VOICE: Are you ever able to switch off and live a private life away from work and if so, how?
Lana: Oh, yes. I have a famous line and any of my friends can attest : “I work from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday”. I usually follow that up by giving them my desk number and would end with a broad smile saying: “I would be more than happy to help you then.” I refuse to accept documents at home. Sometimes I fall in the trap because some persons can be persistent and sometimes I feel the need to be helpful. But generally I can say ‘yes, I live a private life away from work’.
The VOICE: Why did you choose this career? People are generally fearful of this kind of job.
Lana: Honestly, I did not choose this career, it chose me. I love children and so I always wanted to become a teacher. However, after one too many temporary jobs, I got a call from the department. I have been here since.
The VOICE: On a personal level, what are your biggest likes and dislikes in the job that you do?
Lana: I love meeting people and I love interacting with others. I meet persons from all walks of life on the job and I love it. On the other hand, I dislike the perception of others about the tax office. They meet you and make malicious comments. Some jokingly and some based on their experience with you.
The VOICE: Would you say that this job is for anyone, or do you have to be tough as nails to do it?
Lana: No it’s not for anyone. You need to maintain a high level of self control and professionalism. This must also be paired with great communication skills. But most importantly, one needs to be extremely patient and possess high integrity.
The VOICE: What would you say to anyone interested in doing the job that you are doing? What do they need to be prepared for and what do they need to bring to the table?
Lana: Nobody likes to pay taxes. So anyone considering a job as a tax officer should always keep that in mind. You need to be a good listener. Like I mentioned before you need to be very patient. Be ready to deal with all types of characters. You also need to learn how to stand your ground.