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‘VAT violators can face legal action’

Friday, February 26, 2016
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon

Businesses which fail to adjust their prices to Government’s new 12.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) are running afoul of the VAT Act and according to Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) can institute legal action against them.

Since the new VAT regime kicked in on February 1, the Consumer Affairs Division has received many reports of supermarkets, stores and hardwares’ negligence in adjusting their prices, especially decreasing the cost of items from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

Gopee-Scoon told reporters on Wednesday, the Consumer Affairs Division was liaising directly with businesses to assist with price adjustments as they were in a transitional period. 

While there was no time frame for businesses to get their acts in order, she said the power was really in the hands of consumers.  

However, she said legal action would have to be initiated by the  Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) which is guided by the VAT Act.

“There is no particular time frame but I will tell you something, when business persons contravene the VAT Act, they are criminally liable and I am sure that the Board of Inland Revenue will do what it has to do. 

“They are the ones with the responsibility for the VAT Act so the Board of Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Finance will do what they have to do as it is a criminal offence.

“It is not for Consumer Affairs to do that. We are the ones who have a relationship with the consumers in terms of information,” Gopee-Scoon said.

Some business have already made the adjustments. A check at Standard Distributors showed odd looking prices on furniture and appliances and store workers said it was because of the 2.5 per cent reduction of prices.

Meanwhile, SuperPharm employees said since January month-end, they worked extra hours to get the prices adjusted.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Trade and Industry published a list of items that remain zero-rated items that were previously zero-rated and are now subjected to 12.5 per cent and the prices most frequently used by supermarkets that were ascertained in a Consumer Affairs Division survey.

Gopee-Scoon said a list of hardware items would be published in the daily newspapers next week to show prices under the new VAT regime. 

She is also expected to host a press conference today to explained the other roles the Consumer Affairs Division would adopt going forward.