The Government’s announcement of an amnesty for all corporate and individual tax defaulters, something likely to cost the State a substantial amount, is being regarded with concern by the parliamentary Opposition.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan made the announcement of amnesty during his budget presentation on Monday. But during a press conference after the budget presentation, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo questioned the Government’s motive behind the move.
“Why now? Why not from the very beginning of their term? Is it that there are a few companies that they know of, who have large outstanding interest and penalties that would accrue to them and they’re trying to help those companies by giving them a 100 per cent write-off on all interest and penalties?” Jagdeo questioned.
“Is it that this is a deal in the making? Because if people have taxes outstanding, and they have interest to pay, then this government likes to believe it is fair, then the people should pay their interest in taxes that were outstanding for a while? This smacks of personal deals.”
Jagdeo raised comparisons between this amnesty and the 2016 Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) deal. This is a reference to the Guyana Revenue Authority’s multibillion-dollar tax settlement last year with DDL over outstanding consumption and excise taxes.
The GRA, in defending the settlement, had said that ending the 14-year-old case prevented prolonged litigation. The GRA had pointed out that the matter was already costing the nation significant amounts.
But the Opposition has always been against the settlement, expressing concern that other companies would move against the Government and seek refunds based on that case. Subsequently, Banks DIH had slapped Government with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit, claiming in excess of G$28 billion in repayment in light of the controversial tax write-off.
According to the court documents, the corporate entity paid some G$12.8 billion in taxes over the period 2001 to 2006. But since Government granted DDL a G$3.8 billion tax write-off from its assessed G$5.3 billion owed, Banks DIH calculated that it should have only paid some G$3 billion instead of G$12.8 billion.
The company, therefore, argued that the Guyana Government would be “unjustly enriched” if it retained the approximately G$9 billion.
Minister Jordan detailed the proposed amnesty would be granted to taxpayers with outstanding tax returns and payment.
This amnesty will be in effect from January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2018. Taxpayers who file and pay all principal taxes on or before June 30, 2018 will have all interest and penalties waived.
On the other hand, those who file and pay all principal taxes between July 1 and September 30, 2018 will have 50 per cent of interest and penalties waived.