Imbert: Govt to revisit Income Tax Bill in 2019

Monday, December 3, 2018 - 11:00

Since on­ly parts of the In­come Tax Amend­ment Bill were passed in Par­lia­ment last Fri­day, Gov­ern­ment says the rest of the bill con­cern­ing Glob­al Fo­rum as­pects will be brought back to Par­lia­ment ear­ly next year.

And for this sec­ond round, the T&T Cham­ber has sent a stern mes­sage to both Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion: no re­peat of the re­cent long-wind­ed process re­gard­ing the bill.

“No grand­stand­ing and de­lays ahead - please,” T&T Cham­ber CEO Gabriel Faria added yes­ter­day.

Faria and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert spoke about the next chap­ter for the bill af­ter it was passed in Par­lia­ment at 9 pm on Fri­day af­ter weeks of stale­mate be­tween Gov­ern­ment and the Op­po­si­tion.

The bill, which re­quired Op­po­si­tion votes for pas­sage, was need­ed to meet Glob­al Fo­rum/Eu­ro­pean Union for­mats for tax in­for­ma­tion shar­ing process­es to fa­cil­i­tate an­ti-tax eva­sion sys­tems. Gov­ern­ment al­so need­ed to meet a Caribbean Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force dead­line of Fri­day af­ter the FATC grey-list­ed T&T for fail­ure to im­ple­ment an­ti-mon­ey laun­der­ing and counter-ter­ror­ism process­es.

While Gov­ern­ment amend­ed the bill fol­low­ing Op­po­si­tion con­cerns, the Op­po­si­tion main­tained ob­jec­tion up to Fri­day’s fi­nal vote. The UNC in­sist­ed the bill need­ed to be dis­cussed again in Par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee for­mat along with two oth­er bills which were ini­tial­ly part of the pack­age.

In the fi­nal stages, Gov­ern­ment asked if the Op­po­si­tion would sup­port the bill in its cur­rent form. But this was re­ject­ed. Im­bert then amend­ed the bill to re­move claus­es which re­quired a spe­cial ma­jor­i­ty vote. But the Op­po­si­tion still didn’t sup­port it. The amend­ed bill was passed with sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty Gov­ern­ment votes on­ly.

Yes­ter­day, Im­bert said,”Over the last month it be­came ob­vi­ous the Op­po­si­tion wouldn’t sup­port the bill and one of the rea­sons ap­peared to be the clause al­low­ing po­lice eas­i­er ac­cess to tax in­for­ma­tion from In­land Rev­enue. But we agreed to their call to add ju­di­cial su­per­vi­sion in the sit­u­a­tion.

“That clause was one of CFATF’s rec­om­men­da­tions and we were able to pass that with a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty. If we didn’t, CFATF would have black­list­ed us. It’s iron­ic that the clause that was passed with sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty vote was one they had con­cerns about - they shot them­selves in the foot. The claus­es which re­quired Op­po­si­tion votes for pas­sage and which we delet­ed were the in­for­ma­tion as­pects Glob­al Fo­rum (GF) re­quired.”

Im­bert added, “We’ll now go to the GF on their as­pects. They’re com­ing in Jan­u­ary and we’ll get in­for­ma­tion and I’m sure we’ll have to do the bill over on their mat­ters. I’m sure we’ll be back in Par­lia­ment with it by Feb­ru­ary. Hope­ful­ly, there’ll be no dras­tic sit­u­a­tions.”

How­ev­er, UNC Whip David Lee said,”They wa­tered down this bill the same way they did the Mar­riage bill. We’re con­fused at the val­ue of what they passed since those claus­es don’t sat­is­fy the re­quire­ments of the Bankers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Glob­al Fo­rum or the dead­lines they dis­cussed. So this was a po­lit­i­cal con job by PNM.

“I’m sure they’ll have to re­turn the oth­er claus­es to sat­is­fy the GF. In­land Rev­enue said dead­line for the GF mat­ters was Sep­tem­ber 2019. We’re al­ways will­ing to work things out but this was a sham. We tried to pass good law but they wa­tered down the bill.”

Cham­ber CEO Faria, who ex­pressed hap­pi­ness at the bill’s pas­sage, said they were very con­cerned at the wast­ed en­er­gy in the mat­ter.

“While Gov­ern­ment made some con­ces­sions, if both par­ties had ad­dressed it prop­er­ly T&T would be much more ef­fi­cient. So more ma­tu­ri­ty needs to be dis­played - don’t wait un­til the last minute to ad­dress is­sues. That’s why we’re in sit­u­a­tions like Petrotrin and WASA,” Faria said.

“It’s very stress­ful in an al­ready dif­fi­cult cli­mate for busi­ness and con­sumers. Next rounds it must be bet­ter. Mem­bers have sent me copies of let­ters from banks who can no longer main­tain ac­counts due to the coun­try they’re in.”

- by Gail Alexander