One of Grenada’s top importers in the used vehicle business has accused the Keith Mitchell-led government of over taxing those involved in the trade.
Speaking exclusively to THE NEW TODAY, the small businessman said the current tax rate of 160% charged by the Customs Department will cripple the industry.
He said he had no problem with the decision taken by government to address the emission problem posed by used vehicles but that the tax regime is not realistic.
“If you want to cut back on emission controls then drop the duties on vehicles so that people can buy those vehicles 10 years and under. If you so care about the emissions, care about the people too. If you are talking about emission then drop the duties so people can afford it as well,” he added.
According to the businessman, it is more the poorer people in the society who go after the foreign imported used vehicles and are now not in a position to pay for used vehicles ten years and over given the high duties imposed by the Mitchel’s ruling New National Party (NNP) administration.
THE NEW TODAY understands that used cars under 5 years old are subjected to duties at the rate of 135% by Customs on arrival on the St. George’s Port.
The businessman warned that the government can take steps to make a new vehicle cheaper but the average man in the country will still not be able to pay for it.
He said the reality of the situation is that most Grenadians are looking to buy vehicles costing between $18-$25,000.00.
Describing the current system in play on the island as “unfair”, he accused the authorities of not doing anything to address the problem in which some operators in the used vehicle business are not subjected to tax monthly as those who are not registered but engaged in the trade.
He said these people have passed the threshold to pay taxes but the government tax collectors are not going after them.
“When you tell them about it (you hear) yes, yes, we go deal with it and two years later (nothing still happens),” he added.
The small business operator referred to a recent incident in which a Car dealer was penalised because he brought in some vehicles outside of the deadline set for the new time limit for imported used cars over a certain age.
He said that this particular used car dealer brought in some vehicles which were delayed in shipping and it passed the deadline date and was fined $5000.00 for each vehicle that landed on the port in addition to the regular duties.
He also alluded to another case in which one dealer was subjected to $25, 000.00 in fines for importing vehicles in excess of 10 years after the deadline date.
He said the dealer was allegedly called by the Ministry of Finance with a promise that $20, 000.00 would be returned to him since others had only been fined the $5000.00 figure.
The businessman charged the Ministry of Finance of wrongfully fining people who did not really commit any serious offence in the country.
“It’s not a crime if a man makes a mistake or a shipment takes long to come. The guy had proof that it wasn’t his fault but they still charge him $25, 000.00 fine but they called him later and gave him back $20, 000.00,” he said.
Government had set a deadline date of December 31, 2020 for the importation of used vehicles over 10 years old to be subjected to the old rate.
According to the businessman, the new hike on the tax rate will affect “the poor man” in the country.
He said the “poor people” are the ones that have the local economy afloat and the government should realise that the high tax rate on imported vehicles will only hurt them.
“They don’t have (a lot of money)– don’t kill them nah. A man could afford to buy a little car to do a business and you are stopping him from doing that. I don’t like those things at all. Ah does feel sorry for poor people. They are the ones that help me have what I have. It’s not rich people that came and buy from me – it’s poor people,” he added.