A Boon to Taxpayers

March 17, 2017 Elizabeth M. San Nicolas

Soft-spoken John Camacho has spent over 30 years in public service at the Department of Revenue and Taxation. But who is the guy behind one of the most famous signatures on Guam?

John wears many hats as DRT director. He’s also the real estate commissioner, the security administrator, the tax commissioner, and the person in charge of the Motor Vehicle Division. “This is where we make 90% of the revenues (of the government of Guam),” he said.

Born and raised in Inarajan, John initially found his niche in sports. He played soccer and basketball, with the latter taking him around the region. After winning the high school championship with George Washington High School team in 1977, he went on to play for the University of Guam. He played for the island in four consecutive South Pacific Games, winning medals in each. John was on the last team to bring home the gold in 1979. He smiles modestly, “It was a nice career playing basketball.”

John lives in Inarajan with his wife Arleen. A former altar boy, he is still an active volunteer with Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. They have raised three children who have followed in their father’s footsteps, each in their own way.

His eldest, a girl, served in the Air Force, earned her master’s degree online, and now has her own business with computers. His second child, a boy, is an accountant with the Department of Administration, while his youngest son is currently studying at the University of Portland.

Both sons are also athletic like their dad, playing basketball and soccer.

John and Arleen are the proud grandparents of four. John says, “When I look at my grandchildren, I say, ‘Which one of you is going to be the first altar boy?’”

John continued to coach and play for Inarajan’s village team, ending his competitive basketball career in 1991, as he brought home the silver medal from Papua New Guinea. “I had a wonderful career playing basketball, but now I’m feeling the aftereffects.”

He graduated from UOG in 1981, with a degree in Accounting and Management, and went to work immediately for Rev and Tax. Starting as a tax auditor, he slowly worked his way up the ladder from revenue agent to appeals officer, then ultimately to the highest classified position at the time, deputy tax commissioner.

John was appointed deputy director during Gov. Felix Camacho’s first term, and then retired in 2010. However, he had no time to enjoy retirement, as he was immediately appointed director of Rev and Tax by Gov. Eddie Calvo. “Right when I retired on Dec. 31, that was a Friday, I came back Monday and started working.”

His tenure as head of one of Guam’s largest government service departments has been marked by a push toward modernization and online services. “Our goal here is basically to not only collect revenues, but also to service the taxpayers of Guam. Looking at ways to improve our systems. Trying to make it more convenient for the people of Guam.”

New services introduced during his term include online car registration renewals, personal and business income tax filing and forms on the web, online payments, as well as a kiosk for residents without computers. “I just can’t see why we should continue (manually) processing thousands of returns every month. The technology is there,” he says.

Every Monday is spent with his administrators to make sure the department is always moving forward. “I keep pushing my staff and my IT people,” John says.

His office reveals his dedication to teamwork. A large table stretches out in front of his desk, with chairs all around for these regular meetings. He’s not closed away in a corner office by himself—the conference room IS his office.

John is passionate about getting Rev and Tax into the 21st century with easy, online services for all Guam residents. “The day I came in as director I wrote to the IRS asking them, ‘Please share your online services,’” he reveals.

The department faces many challenges, though. A relatively small population, differing tax codes among the various U.S. territories, and limited funding in the government of Guam make it difficult to drag services out of the Dark Ages. “It’s a challenge here with the resources that we have,” John admits.  

Future projects include an updated, more detailed classification system for the business license branch and updating the real property tax evaluation—and getting these both available online for the public.

Despite all his success on the basketball court and in government service, the tall, quiet man from Guam’s deep south remains a humble team player. “I’m just happy to serve the people of Guam, with all the institutional knowledge that I have gained throughout my 30 years. I really enjoy working here and working with my staff.”

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