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‘No new taxes does not mean no increase in taxes’- Chris Ram

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By Bibi Khatoon

The 2018 National Budget will be presented in less than two months and Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan recently sought to assure the public that the budget will not include new taxes.

However, Opposition Member of Parliament and Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall said, “I don’t take any solace from the Minister saying that there are not going to be no new taxes in the 2018 Budget.” In explaining his position, he alluded to another remark made by the Minister at the same Press Conference hosted last Monday that there were no new taxes in his previous budgets.

Budget 2017 had removed zero-rated items from the list of items on which Value Added Tax (VAT) is being paid. Such items included private education and aspects of private healthcare and were heavily criticised by the private sector and the parliamentary opposition.

Nandlall was at the time speaking during a panel discussion at the Business Sumit, hosted by the Private Sector Commission on Thursday at the Marriott Hotel. Also on the panel were Head of the Guyana Revenue Commission, Godfrey Statia; Mark Wenner of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram.

Ram outlined that there is an over-concentration of taxation in the country’s budgets. Speaking before Nandlall, Ram pointed out that saying there will be no new taxes in the 2018 National Budget, does not mean there will be no increase in the current tax measures.

He criticised the Minister of Finance for the lack of a tax policy and blasted him for such a comment. “You cannot say that there are no new taxes. When you start, administrative costs—that we used to have fairly low costs because it was thought that your taxes pay for your government services—now you have new fees that are being charged that include a new element, that’s taxation, its disguise taxation. Let us not fool ourselves. Let us stop playing cards if that’s what we were doing,” Ram said.

“You cannot say that there are no new taxes. When you start, administrative costs—that we used to have fairly low costs because it was thought that your taxes pay for your government services—now you have new fees that are being charged that include a new element, that’s taxation, its disguise taxation. Let us not fool ourselves. Let us stop playing cards if that’s what we were doing,” Ram said.

He added, “to say that we are not introducing any new taxes—I find that mind-boggling. What does that suppose? That we have an ideal and an optimum system of taxation that we don’t need to trouble it? There might be some sections of the economy that are heavily taxed and other sections that are under-taxed.”

As a former member of the Tax Reform Committee, Ram alluded to the Value Added Tax on water and electricity, noting that it was initially recommended for persons above a certain threshold. He said Guyana has one of the worst cases of income and wealth inequality.

While Jordan was not present at today’s session, Junior Minister of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma was at the event.

 

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