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Colm: Gaming industry owes $400m in taxes
Government is supposed to collect $500 million a year in taxes from this country’s gaming industry but only received around $56 million last fiscal year, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said.
“This is going to come to an end,” Imbert said as he wound up the Budget debate in the House of Representatives last night.
In the 2018 Budget Imbert signalled his intention to increase the taxes the gaming industry will have to pay. There have been protests outside the Parliament by members of the gaming industry against this move and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has promised to appoint someone from the industry to the Senate to speak about their plight.
But Imbert yesterday knocked this suggestion, saying, “Speak about what? There is no relationship between the Gambling and Gaming Bill, which is to establish a commission to regulate casino gambling in this country to put an end to the scourge of money laundering, the illegal activity that take place in these casinos,” he said.
Imbert said according to “conservative” estimates Government is supposed to collect $100 million annually from the “proliferation” of amusement games scattered around the country. However, only $8 million was collected last year.
“And yet I would hear people go out and say ‘this is all a set of old talk, everybody is paying their taxes, none of us are doing anything underhand, everything we do is above board, we are all legal’,” Imbert said.
Labelling those who avoided payment as tax cheaters, Imbert said casinos were also supposed to pay close to $400 million in taxes but only paid $48 million last year.
“All of these large enterprises are owned by foreigners,” Imbert said.
He said the casino owners never protest but instead “threaten the poor little workers” to protest or they will be dismissed.
Based on current figures for revenue and expenditure, Imbert said the country will have a shortfall of $2 billion this month. The “inescapable expenses” for this month, including salaries and pensions, is expected to be $3.1 billion.
“That does not include a number of cheques that were written in the month of September that will be presented in the month of October and when you add the cheques that were written in September and not yet presented in October, we get another billion dollars. We are talking about $4.1 billion,” Imbert said.
The total cash inflow is estimated at $2.2 billion, he said.