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T&T Chamber to meet with Govt to discuss VAT refunds

Monday, December 4, 2017
Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce is standing by its statement that there is an issue regarding the Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds.

However, the Chamber's CEO Gabriel Faria said they were ready and willing to meet to discuss the issue with Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

In an interview yesterday, Faria urged members of the public to form their own opinions after examining the data contained in the IMF Report which was published last month.

Responding to claims they misinterpreted the report's findings, Faria said, "We stand by our statement that our members who belong to the wider business community continue to face severe hardships from the delays in refunds."

Faria pointed out although the information contained in the report presented findings up to March 2017, it had not been published until November 2017.

He said this meant, "It is the latest information that is available."

Revealing they had spoken with Imbert over the weekend, Faria said they had been invited to meet with the ministry to get the latest statistics.

However, he added, "We believe that in an effort to ensure total transparency on the matter, that it be prudent for the Ministry of Finance or the VAT office to circulate a document which shows the aging of VAT refund arrears from December 2015 to November 2017, so we can understand what has happened."

Acknowledging the minister's invitation to meet, Faria stressed, "We are very supportive and understanding of the current situation the government is in. However, we are representing the business community and when they are under the kind of pressure they are under, we have to speak out to try and help alleviate the situation they are in."

He added: "I am confident based on discussions with the minister, that we will make headway on this issue."

In its release last week, the Chamber expressed concern over government’s inability to settle outstanding VAT arrears.

They claimed it stood in excess of TT $ 5.5 billion and suggested allowing companies to offset their refunds with payments due.

In a response, the Ministry of Finance said the IMF had addressed the issues of tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax leakage in T&T.

They claimed the IMF estimated that “tax arrears” amounting to 11 per cent of GDP or $16 billion, was the annual tax revenue being lost by government.

The ministry said, "Therefore, the IMF did not at any time confirm that the Government owes businesses tax arrears of 11 per cent of GDP."

"In fact, it confirmed the reverse."

They said, "The Chamber has thus completely misunderstood the information in the IMF Report."

"It stands to reason that the government is not being punitive to businesses nor has it misrepresented expenditure in its most recent budget statement."

The ministry claimed government has been compliant in issuing VAT refunds to businesses.

They said for the fiscal years 2017 and 2016, VAT refunds totaling $4.2 billion and $3.7 billion respectively, were paid by government to VAT registered businesses.


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