Guyana Stores to get 30 days to pay $3.8B in owed taxes

-GRA source

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is expecting Guyana Stores Limited (GSL) to pay the entirety of its $3.8 billion debt within 30 days, inclusive of interest and penalties, following its recent victory at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

This is according to a well-placed source at GRA, who explained to Sunday Stabroek that the authority is not likely to be open to any proposal of a “reasonable settlement.”

“Taxation is based on laws and principles, not negotiations. Taxpayers need to be treated equally and the law dealt with consistently. These taxpayers have exhausted every measure to delay judgement and evade payment. The taxes will have to be paid now,” the source explained, while adding that it is normal that payment be effected within 30 days of a decision.

Further, this newspaper was told that the authority is not open to waiving any of the sum owed by the company, including any interest and penalties which may be applicable.

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.

Speaking with this newspaper last Tuesday, Tony Yassin, one of the co-owners of GSL, said that the company would be engaging the tax agency to determine a “reasonable” settlement.

Noting that the company never expected to lose its case, he added that the company would “evaluate what it is and hopefully make a proposal of settlement to GRA to come up with something that might be acceptable.”

“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,” Yassin further said, while reiterating that the company would have no choice but to follow whatever agreement is arrived at with the GRA.

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