The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) wishes to respond to a letter by Mr. Robin Singh in the Friday, August 31, 2018 edition of the Stabroek News, titled “Questions for government policy making keep piling up.”
The letter writer insinuates that the positions of the GRA and that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the granting of concessions for re-migrants, is the “source of much confusion.” He made reference to the recent views expressed in the press by the Honourable Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Commissioner-General of the GRA.
The Authority wishes to state categorically that the views of the two Agencies are in no way at odds. The Agencies are tasked with differing roles and responsibilities. The Minis-try of Foreign Affairs ensures that the remigrant meets the criteria set out in the said scheme for being a remigrant, while the Ministry of Finance through the GRA is responsible for administering the tax concessions. This administration allows the GRA to withhold, suspend or cancel the concessions when the remigrant is in breach of the conditions of the scheme. In the case of motor vehicles, the exemption of duties on motor vehicles is granted on conditions pursuant to section 23 and 36 of the Customs Act Chapter 82:01. These clearly state that the re-migrant must:
• Maintain legal residence in Guyana, in accordance with Section 2 the Income Tax Act Chapter 81:01 for five (5) years from the date of registration of the vehicle
• Report to the GRA in person every six (6) months with the motor vehicle certification of road worthiness/fitness, insurance and registration of inspection
• Reside at least 183 days for each year until the five-year period has expired
• Uses the vehicle as a primary mode of transportation and ensure that it remains in his/her possession within the five (5) years without being leased, transferred or sold.
The Commissioner-General’s remarks of the breaches are factual. There have been blatant breaches in the remigrant conditions specified. The statement that “one in every three” of the concessions are breached can be borne out by the figures and visits to remigrant residences where the “high end” vehicles cannot be found and the remigrant cannot be located. Investigations have revealed that funds are provided to prospective remigrants who buy the said high end vehicles and transfer possession by means of power of attorney, then return overseas during the stipulated period that they are required to remain in Guyana. Some of these high end vehicles include Roll Royces, Hummers, Range Rovers, and Ferraris. To curb this practice, the GRA has been requesting the source of funds for these applicants. These acts constitute serious offenses that warrant the Com-missioner-General under Section 36 of the Customs Act to imposing penalties, inclusive of forfeiture or fines in lieu of forfeiture. In December 31, 2017 alone over $50 million in fines penalties and duties were recouped from these individuals.
Lastly, the Commissioner General views on tax credits versus exemptions are well known. These views are in keeping with international norms and those of the Tax Reform Committee of which he was a member.