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

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

PPP/C’s Income Tax Act amendment is also unconstitutional

The Stabroek News of Friday January 6, 2017, reported that two parliamentary representatives of the PPP/C criticised but abstained from voting on an amendment to the Value-Added Tax giving the Commissioner General the right to prevent persons, through the Chief Immigration Officer, from leaving the country once they owed VAT.

And in the letter columns of the Stabroek News of January 7, former Attorney General, Mr Anil Nandlall returns to the issue with a reasoned argument whether the amendment violates the Constitution and is therefore void (‘Section 45 of the VAT Act is unconstitutional’).

This is interesting because in 1993 then PPP/C Finance Minister, Mr Asgar Ally inserted by way of an amendment to section 71 of the Income Tax Act a new provision that is arguably more dangerous than the APNU+AFC’s amended VAT provision. Taking Mr Nandlall’s argument, it means that the PPP/C’s amendment to the Income Tax Act is, at best, on the same tenuous constitutional ground as the APNU+AFC’s amendment to the VAT legislation.

Garnishment and Distress Proceedings

Two proposals announced in 2017 Budget Speech – inserting into the Income Tax Act distress proceedings similar to the provision in the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Act, and garnishment of funds in bank accounts for the settlement of tax arrears – have caught the national attention. The discussion has not been helped by the misinformed and misguided statements in the media, even by columnists and persons who have a duty to be better informed.

That failure which is the cause of much of the confusion, misinformation and “noise”, has led to a situation whereby two very different provisions are conflated and wrong premises are used to defend or justify the two proposals. They should be addressed separately. Here is why.

The terms garnishment and distress are of significant legal and constitutional import and depending on circumstances may have different application to action against the person (in personam) and against the thing or property (in rem). As these matters apply to our Constitution they also raise the tension, if not the clash, between, on the one hand, Article 65 which grants to Parliament the power to “make laws for the peace, order and good government” and on the other hand, Article 142 which protects property rights subject to exceptions, as well as Article 8 which makes void any law inconsistent with the Constitution. Continue reading Garnishment and Distress Proceedings

Guyana must comply with CCJ’s ruling on the “environmental” tax

Introduction
On May 8, the Caribbean Court of Justice handed down a decision in a case against Guyana brought by a Surinamese manufacturing company Rudisa Beverages & Juices N.V. and its Guyana subsidiary Caribbean International Distributors Inc. In essence the two companies were claiming a refund of what is called under the Guyana’s Customs Act an environmental tax of $10 on the importation of non-returnable beverage containers. The two companies asked the regional court which is the protector of the Revised Treaty of Chagauramas (RTC) among other things, to order Guyana to refund to them the sum of US$6,047,244.47 paid by them to the GRA up to 24th October 2013 and any further amounts paid since that date.

After submissions and arguments which began in June last year, the Court:

A) Declared that the collection of the environmental tax in relation to goods of CARICOM origin is incompatible with the RTC; and

B) Ordered Guyana to:

i) Immediately cease the collection of environmental tax on imported non-returnable beverage containers;

ii) Pay to CIDI the sum of US$6,047,244.47 together with such further sums paid by them from 25th October 2013 to the date of this judgement;

iii) Pay interest on the sums payable by this judgement at the rate of 4% per annum from the date of the judgement; and

iv) Pay the costs of these proceedings to be taxed if not agreed.
Continue reading Guyana must comply with CCJ’s ruling on the “environmental” tax