Finance Minister is ‘hopelessly confused’ – says Nandlall

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(Following is the full text of a response to the Minister of Finance Winston Jordan issued a few minutes ago by former Attorney General and PPP/C Member of Parliament, Mohabir Anil Nandlall)

In the face of the avalanche of criticisms heaped upon the measure announced by the Minister of Finance in his budget speech to take monies from persons bank accounts in satisfaction of outstanding taxes, the Minster has responded in the Kaieteur News, under the bold caption on the front page: “PPP introduced freezing of bank accounts- Finance Minister (KN 2016-12-04).”

Finance Minister Winston Jordan and PPP/C Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall
Finance Minister Winston Jordan and PPP/C Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall

I must point out that the issue was never about “freezing of bank accounts.” It is about invasion of persons’ bank accounts without an Order of Court and to take monies therefrom and apply it to taxes owed. In any event, it is difficult to identify from that bald statement, to which piece of legislation the Minster refers.

However, in the article the Minister is quoted as saying that the provision of garnishment is one which already exists in the Value Added Tax Act promulgated by the PPP and the GRA already has this power under the VAT Act; that the government is simply provided a similar measure under the Income Tax Act.

I can find no provision in the VAT Act which authorizes the GRA to go into tax-payers’ bank accounts and seize proceeds therefrom in satisfaction of outstanding taxes. Of course the Minster did not refer to any section of the VAT Act. I do not think he could have. There appears to be none.

On the contrary, garnishment is provided for in the Income Tax Act. However, it is limited to authorizing GRA to go after the debtors of a defaulting tax payer and recover the debts from those debtors and apply the same to liquidate the tax arrears of the tax-payer. In their current formulation the relevant sections of the Income Tax Act do not authorize the GRA to go to the defaulting tax-payers’ bank accounts and take proceeds therefrom in satisfaction of outstanding taxes. It would appear that this is a new measure being introduced by this Minister into the legislative tax architecture of Guyana.

Another issue of concern is that the VAT Act allows the GRA to prevent a person who owes VAT from leaving the country, but only by an Order of Court. The Minister has indicated an intention to amend the VAT Act to remove the requirement of a Court Order. Why would the Minister want to do such a thing? This, again, smacks of authoritarianism and unconstitutionality.

This is the very Minister who says at page 22 of his budget speech: “Mr. Speaker the Constitution of the Co-operate Republic of Guyana is the bedrock of governance and serves to secure the fundamental rights and establish the rule of law for all Guyanese.”

It is either the Minister of Finance is engaging in amateur propaganda or he is hopelessly confused.

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