January tax revenue figures show gov’t can remove VAT on private education

The Ministry of Finance has disclosed that tax revenues for January 2017 was $11.9 billion or 40% more than tax revenues in January 2016. Total tax revenue for the entire 2017 was budgeted at $162.7 billion, or 8.67% over 2016. Clearly, it is not expected that total tax revenues for the entire year will match the 40% increase but is there any reasonable observer who will say it is not going to be much more than 8.67%, more than enough to make up the $350 million? All it would require for the Government to replace the $350 million it has said it will lose by removing VAT on education services would be a meagre 0.22% over the 2017 budgeted revenue.

The January figures which come from no less a place than the Ministry of Finance remove the final straw of an excuse that Prime Minister Nagamootoo and Co made for the retention of VAT on education. Come on Mr. Nagamootoo, do the right thing, the bright thing and the decent thing. You showed with your dispiriting prediction at the National Cultural Centre that you can sway Cabinet. Do it again. The Government can afford it. And just in case you need to be reminded, the tax revenues come from many of the parents whose plea you so callously rejected.

Government applied different standards to VAT on medical services from those on education services

Clearly unmoved by fifteen thousand signatories and the heartfelt arguments, pleas and entreaties of hundreds of parents and students at the Government-Parents-Adminis-trators VAT on Education consultation, Cabinet’s subsequent announcement of no review of VAT on education until 2018 has effectively killed any further meaningful discussion on this issue. In this my last contribution to the debate, I write only to show how the government has applied vastly different standards to VAT on medical services and education services, and more particularly private education services.

In his Budget 2017 Speech, the Finance Minister announced proposals to “expand the list of exempt items and [to] eliminate all zero-rated items, with the exception of those pertaining to exports and manufacturing inputs.” In neither list of exempt nor zero-rated items attached to the Budget Speech did education or health services appear, meaning that those items, both of which were previously zero-rated, would become taxable. The doctors at a meeting at the Ocean View Hotel protested and lo and behold, when the actual law was published, not only did health services mysteriously appear in the exempt list (Schedule II), but whole ranges of medical supplies appeared on the zero-rated list (Schedule I). Continue reading Government applied different standards to VAT on medical services from those on education services

Insensitive gift at DDL’s AGM

The decision by the directors of DDL to give attendees at the company’s Annual General Meeting on Friday April 7, 2017 a bottle of 6-year-old white rum was more than insensitive; it was insulting. Clearly, the directors could not give a damn about the hundreds of Christians who were observing Lent, arguably the most sacred period in the Christian calendar.

The Hindus must consider themselves lucky that their auspicious Navratri had ended a couple of days before the Annual General Meeting. Otherwise, they too would have been forced to accept the alcohol on offer lest they offend the prominent practising Hindus on DDL’s Board. One shareholder – a Muslim – was so offended that he sent me a photograph of the rum gift with a request that I raise the matter. Continue reading Insensitive gift at DDL’s AGM

The case for VAT on education is weak to non-existent

The decision by Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, Minister of Education, to meet five parents and Swami Aksharananda, educator, as representatives of the group protesting outside of his ministry against VAT on education services on April 5 was commendable. Coming on top of the Cabinet decision to hold a consultation with the public at the National Cultural Centre today Friday, April 7 at 11 am, there is some hope that the government is finally ready to reverse the decision to impose VAT on education.

Why it has taken the government over four months to do the right thing is baffling. Almost every argument by the government has been met with cogent, rational and compelling responses. Here are some of those arguments and the responses. Continue reading The case for VAT on education is weak to non-existent

Until there is a change in the law UG should register for VAT

I have hesitated to engage in the ongoing debate in the print media on whether the VAT being imposed on educational services extends to fees charged by the University of Guyana. However, because even the media seems unsure, I do not think further hesitation helps.

VAT is not a particularly complex tax and has a few basic principles. Section 9 of the VAT Act imposes VAT on (a), every taxable supply by a taxable person; and (b), on every import of goods or import of services, other than an exempt import. We are here concerned with (a) and can disregard (b). Because the section dealing with taxable person also refers to taxable activity, it seems preferable to look at the definition of “taxable person” before going on to examine taxable activity.

A taxable person is a person who is registered, or who is required to register under section 11 of the Act. “Person” is defined in the Act to include the State, an agency of the State, a local authority, board, natural person, trust, company, and partnership. In other words, there is no automatic or definitional exception of the state or, by extension, educational institutions funded by the State. Continue reading Until there is a change in the law UG should register for VAT