Colm Imbert in Parliament on Friday. Photo by Sureash Cholai
FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert is hopeful that a tax amnesty which will run from November 14, 2022 to February 17, 2023, will bring some $680 million in revenue. He expressed this hope when he opened debate on the Finance Bill 2022 in the House of Representatives on Friday.
After explaining the bill was designed to implement some of the measures announced in the 2022/2023 budget in the House on September 26, Imbert identified the amnesty as one such measure.
He said tax amnesties were nothing new in TT and resulted in the collection of valuable revenue.
Referring to an amnesty implemented under the former UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition between 2010 and 2011, Imbert said that amnesty saw the PP collect $1,619, 655, 954.
An amnesty in 2014-2015, resulted in the collection of $2,482, 428, 293.
Imbert said amnesties under the PNM also saw the collection of revenue.
An amnesty in 2016 resulted in a collection of $776, 723, 186.
“Over the years, the Government, various governments over the last six/seven years have collected over $5 billion in (tax) amnesties. That has assisted the Government’s revenue and the Government’s cash flow.”
Imbert said it is therefore wrong for the UNC to now tell the population that tax amnesties yield no revenue for TT.
He also recalled the UNC has made several unfounded allegations about the purpose of tax amnesties under PNM governments.
Imbert listed some of them.
“Trying to help friends and big business or condoning criminality.”
Imbert flipped the argument on the UNC.
“So I wonder what happened in the 2010-2011 amnesty…in the 2014-2015 amnesty (when the PP was in government). Was that (helping friends and big business or condoning criminality) what was going on?”
Imbert said, “Those statements are just scandalous in the extreme and very inaccurate.”
He reminded MPs “every amnesty is limited to the period of the amnesty.”
Imbert said if people do not settle their taxes during the amnesty, interest and penalties imposed before the amnesty will be reinstated. He added that these people will also have to pay accumulated interest and penalties.
“Let me repeat again that the amnesty does not reduce your tax liability. The amnesty is available to all taxpayers.
No particular people benefit from tax amnesties.
Imbert said, “There is no favoritism. There is no nepotism involved in an amnesty. It is across the board to every single taxpayer in TT.” An amnesty is no a get out of jail free card.
Imbert reminded MPs, “Most tax offences carry terms of imprisonment that may be imposed at the discretion of a judge.”
Tax amnesties do not interfere with that discretion.
Imbert said tax amnesties do not stop the Board of Inland Revenue ‘s “ability to pursue criminal conduct.”
This means, he continued, criminals who are pursuing tax fraud “can be prosecuted during and after a tax amnesty.”