Guyana Stores to engage GRA on settling $3.8B debt

-after CCJ ruling

Tony Yassin

Tony Yassin, one of the co-owners of Guyana Stores Limited (GSL), which has been ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to pay the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) $3.8 billion, says that the company would be engaging the tax agency to determine a “reasonable” settlement.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday morning, Yassin, said that the company did not expect the CCJ to rule against it.

“I’m not here to give an opinion on whether the ruling was fair or not. It was a ruling at the end of the day. At this point, I am still new to this position and obviously it is not what we were expecting, so we will have to evaluate what it is and hopefully make a proposal of settlement to GRA to come up with something that might be acceptable,” Yassin said, while adding that he only found out about the ruling on Monday and he was still not privy to all of the information surrounding the case.

Yassin also noted that GSL has been in constant contact with the GRA prior to the ruling and will continue to liaise with it to come up with “reasonable settlement.”

When questioned about what would be an ideal settlement option for the company, Yassin related that he could not make such a pronouncement since it would be GRA that would be “probably calling the shots.”

“Well, we are a retail company and I can’t say we don’t have any problem repaying. This is a lot of money and we will work out whatever arrangement they come up with,” he said, while reiterating that the company would have no choice but to follow whatever agreement they arrive at with GRA.

On Monday, the CCJ ruled against GSL’s constitutional challenge to the 2% minimum corporation tax applied by the GRA under the Fiscal Enactments (Amendment) Act.

The court told GSL that it should have utilised the specialised procedure provided under the Income Tax Act to challenge the GRA, rather than bring claims for constitutional relief in matters where not only was an alternative remedy available but that remedy was the natural and statutorily provided recourse. To do otherwise, it argued, was “an abuse of process.”

GSL received a demand, dated May, 2012 from the then GRA Commissioner-General Khurshid Sattaur for the sum of $3,811,346,397 in unpaid taxes and chose to institute proceedings in the courts of Guyana.

Having lost at both the High Court and Appellate Court, GSL appealed the matter at the level of the CCJ, which has now dismissed GSL’s appeal and ordered to the company pay costs to the three Respondents: the Attorney General, the Revenue Authority and the Commissioner-General.

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