‘No further consideration in VAT reduction’- GRA Boss

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…says Income taxes should be lowered to offset increases in other taxes

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has not been privy to any planned reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) when the Budget for 2018 is presented in six weeks’ time.

The bombshell was dropped on Thursday on the final day of ‘Business Summit 2017’ when GRA Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia on Thursday formed part of fiery discussion panel on ‘Taxation’ in Guyana and was joined by vocal social activist and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) representative Mark Wenner, Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall and Private Sector Representative, Deodat Indar.

Members of the taxation panel at ‘Guyana Business Summit 2017’ during the fiery discussion

Statia is in fact advocating a reduction in the personal income taxes paid by workers—a measure, he says, that can alleviate the inherent loss of disposable income, a result of previous increases in other taxes paid.

The panel discussion followed a presentation by Peoples Progressive Party Civic  (PPP/C) Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, who lamented the more than $10B taken out of the pockets of the average Guyanese as a result of the 2017 Budget taxation measures.

The Commissioner General, during his time in the spotlight and under interrogation from participants of the Guyana Business Summit 2017, was quick to point out that he was in no way a policy representative of the Government but was at the summit as a technocrat.

Statia also criticized its content saying he attended under the impression, “it would have been an intellectual discourse in how we go about” solving the problems that exist within the system.

Lambasting the forum, the Commissioner General said the administration and its related agency must first be apprised of the tax related woes that impede the private sector in order to be able to formulate a plan, reminding those in attendance at the Marriott Hotel, “there is no quick fix.”

Turning his attention to the application of VAT, the Commissioner General, told participants, inclusive of business leaders and elected representatives, “as far as I have been told there has not been any further consideration in reduction of VAT.”

Statia’s comments were not contradicted by Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma and come a short time after Teixeira had told the Business Summit of an opposition proposal for the rate to be reduced to 12 per cent—initially promised by the coalition Administration.

Responding to the various aspersions cast as a result of the imposition of a range of new tax measures in the 2016 and 2017 budget that has led to the annual erosion of some $10B in disposable income, Statia said, he would’ve preferred to see a reduction in the income taxes paid.

The Commissioner General told those in attendance that the benefits the administration was looking to see passed on, with its reapplication of VAT on a range of commodities, did not filter down town to ordinary man.

“I would have preferred a decrease in personal taxation and let the increase in disposable income cover that (shortfalls)…there is mixture of things to be done,” Statia cautioned, as ideas were bandied on which of the several taxes charged should be reduced.

IDB Representative on the panel Dave Wenner outlined, among other things, that Guyana is listed—tied with Haiti—as having the highest business taxes.

Teixeira— making representation on behalf of Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo—updated the Summit on some 124 proposals that the political opposition has submitted to Parliament for inclusion in the 2018 Budget.

The proposals indicated to the Business Summit that the Opposition was looking to have Government, through its parliamentary motion, ‘restore the purchasing power of the people by removing the imposition of VAT on zero rated items, new fees and licences imposed in the 2016 and 2017 Budgets.

The PPP, she said is looking to have Government immediately remove all forms of taxes and duties on fuel for the agriculture industry, on inputs for the agriculture industry including machinery, equipment and spares in addition to removing the burdensome GRA administrative measures put in place.

The interactive panel discussion also saw heated exchanges between panelists and participants.

Local entrepreneur, Captain Gerry Gouveia, present for both days of the historic confab upbraided insinuations that the private sector somehow was operating in a predatory manner like vultures and wanted to pay less taxes in order to use the larger profits for their own purposes.

Captain Gouveia in defending the private sector said he took offense to the insinuations and noted that the private sector “did in fact want to pay its fair share.”

Gouveia was adamant, “what we don’t want is an overtaxed sector.”

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