Imbert: $4,000 for public servants who retired from 2014-2016

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert – Angelo Marcelle

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said about 1,700 public sector workers who retired in 2014-2016 from jobs represented by the trade unions which accepted the four per cent wage hike offered by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) will be paid a lump sum of $4,000, tax-free.

He was piloting the Finance Bill 2023 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. These include teachers and fire, prison and police officers, amalgamated workers at the Port of Spain City Corporation and the Defence Force Pay Review Committee.

It comes on the heels of Government’s moves to pay $1 billion owed to workers in these categories before Christmas.

Imbert said, “This is to fulfil a promise made with respect to the waiver of income tax on the $4,000 lump sum payment for retirees.”

The clause was simple, he said.

“It is intended to exempt income tax attendant on the one-time payment of $4,000 to persons who retired compulsorily, voluntarily, with permission, or on the grounds of ill health from 2014-2016.”

He said the payment would benefit about 1,600 monthly-paid workers plus 100 other workers variously paid hourly, daily and weekly.

“In the Government’s offer of four per cent over the period – which was zero, zero, two, zero, zero, two – there would be some persons who would retire within that period who would not benefit from the full four per cent. What the Government decided to do and the bargaining agents accepted (was) that those persons who retired within that period who did not receive the full benefit of the four per cent would get a lump sum payment of $4,000.”

The Government went further to exempt it from income tax, he said.

Imbert also announced corporation tax breaks for businesses.

He said “ordinary companies” which pay 30 per cent in corporation tax (unlike banks at 35 per cent, petrochemicals at 35 per cent, and oil companies at 50 per cent) will be exempt from paying business levy on their export sales.

“So we are exempting local manufacturers who export.

“We are exempting the income earned from export sales from business levy, and that is to encourage manufacturers to export.”

He expected the measure to boost production, trade, employment and revenue.

Another corporate tax break, he said, was 150 per cent up to $500,000 on corporate sponsorship to approved public and private schools.

“Education is extremely important, and there are many corporate sponsors who want to help to assist in the maintenance and development of school infrastructure.

“This is to encourage them because they will get a 50 per cent uplift on their expense for tax purposes.”

Companies will also get a new corporate tax break on their spending on cyber security and network security monitoring up to $500,000.

“As you may know, ransomware, cyber attacks – I don’t want to use loose language – but I would say it is the flavour of the month, internationally.

“There is a proliferation of cyber security intrusions aimed at businesses within TT, in particular. It is simply shocking.”

Imbert said all new online payment methods were subject to cyber security approval by a unit within the Ministry of National Security, such as payment methods used by the Judiciary and Housing Development Corporation (HDC.) The tax breaks were to allow the private sector to follow suit, he explained.

“I don’t think I need to belabour this point. I think everybody in TT is now acutely aware of the need for enhanced cyber security protection, whether you are in the public sector or the private sector.”

Imbert said the bill also introduces a new, more favourable rate of supplemental petroleum tax (SPT) to be paid by small, shallow water, marine producers (extracting under 4,000 barrels per day) and to improve these companies’ sustainability discount from 20 to 25 per cent under the Petroleum Taxes Act.

The bill also gave a waiver on all penalties and interest payable on contributions under the National Insurance Act until the end of 2024.

The Property Tax Act was amended by the bill to allow municipal corporations to collect the tax and to refer non-payment to the board.

The bill amends the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act to specify not just goods and services but also “and works” for procurement of a value up to $1 million.

“We didn’t want to have this thing confused by any argument by a clever lawyer that ‘works’ were not included in the definition of goods and services.”

Imbert said procurement regulations were now at “a very advanced stage.”