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Lower House approves Tax Administration Bill

Phillip Telesford - Leader of Government Business in the Lower House

A Bill to give legal teeth to government’s tax amnesty for 2023 was finally tabled in the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday.

The Tax Administration Bill comes almost five (5) months after Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell announce the 12-month amnesty in the 2023 Budget statement last December.

According to the Grenadian leader, who also served as Minister of Finance up until March 31, the Government is owed close to EC$777 million in outstanding taxes and penalties.

The tax amnesty went into effect as of January 01, without the necessary amendments to the 2016 Tax Administration Act.

The Tax Administration Act defines tax as “a compulsory payment to government imposed under a law which this Act applies regardless of whether that payment is designated as a tax, fee, duty, levy or otherwise, and, unless the context otherwise requires, includes interest, late fee, or penalty in relation to a tax”.

The Bill was moved by Leader of Government Business Phillip Telesford, who told legislators that the proposed legislation seeks to bring a “halt (to) the further accumulation of arrears and the collection of all tax arrears from 2022 onwards.”

It also seeks to address the recoverability of the outstanding taxes, the arrears to these taxes, and to improve compliance.

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The senior government minister also said, “the strategy of the Government is to provide a waiver, provide an opportunity where businesses and individuals who are owing the government tax can pay those taxes without having to service fees and penalties associated with the arrears on those taxes.”

The Member of Parliament for the constituency of St. George South-east noted that the Bill is intended to be “strictly enforced in accordance with (the principal Act) number 14 of 2016” which at present makes no provisions for the Minister of Finance to grant a tax amnesty.

Opposition leader Dr. Keith Mitchell has warned about the potential abuse of the amnesty clause in the Bill.

Dr. Mitchell, a former Finance Minister, voiced disagreement with the granting of the tax amnesty by the almost 1-year old Congress administration, expressing concern that “some who are supporters of the party may feel they have an inalienable right to get it because they help bring the Government into office.”

The Tax Administration Bill, which is backdated to January 1, 2023, was passed in the Lower House, and must now get approval in the Upper House or Senate, and gazetted before becoming law.

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