GRA maintains Land Cruiser is passenger vehicle; says will defend position  

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Slapped with a lawsuit over the recent classification of a Land Cruiser as a passenger vehicle, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) said on Wednesday that it stands by its position and will defend same when the matter comes up in the High Court on April 22, 2021.

Speaking to the News Room via telephone, Comptroller of Customs, Excise and Trade Operations, Rohan Beekhoo, offered clarity on the issue that has since made headlines and is now attracting public commentary.

Auto-dealer and businessman, Mohamed Shaw Jahan, has sued the GRA over claims that his imported 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser has been wrongly classified as a passenger vehicle although, according to him, it is a “goods vehicle”.

Beekhoo, who said that the matter has already been handled through a robust internal system at GRA, challenged this position. He said although the businessman has declared the vehicle as a “goods carrying vehicle”, GRA’s Central Processing Unit and the authority’s Harmonised System Clarification Committee, after extensive deliberations, both determined that the vehicle is in fact a passenger vehicle.

Comptroller of Customs, Excise and Trade Operations, Rohan Beekhoo

Beekhoo said although he recognises the businessman’s right to challenge the classification, GRA stands by this judgment. He explained that there is a legally constituted Customs Tariff Tribunal that usually handles these disputes as an intermediary between GRA and the Court.

And while the importer or broker would usually have to make an application to this tribunal, the body is currently not functional. Beekhoo pointed out that vehicle’s classification also needs to conform with the harmonised international standards set by the World Customs Organisation. He said according to those rules, which deals with the principle design of vehicles, it has again found itself in the category of a passenger vehicle.

“Customs laws have to go with what was the principle designed by a manufacturer,” he added. Beekhoo pointed out that despite modifications or how a vehicle was registered in a previous country, Guyana will have to deal with the principle design, except when there is a domestic policy that dictates otherwise.

He reminded of the previous policy, which has since been shelved, to allow certain vehicles to be used as “goods carrying vehicles” after modification, although not principally designed to be one.

“So, the treatment in one country is not a precursor to be used as a definitive guide to allow classification of a vehicle,” Beekhoo said in response to the importer’s claim that the vehicle had been previously registered in the United Kingdom as a commercial van.

The businessman contends that because of the alleged misclassification, the vehicle now attracts taxes amounting to some $14 million, while if otherwise classified as a goods vehicle, it will attract taxes under $2 million.

In this regard, Beekhoo said he understands that the issue is also about tax, but pointed out that the GRA is also conscious of attempts by persons to get away with paying lower taxes by modifying vehicles prior to registration.

The imported vehicle, which arrived in Guyana in December 2020, only has two seats, two doors, two ventilating windows, a flatbed cargo area to the rear and a barrier between the cargo area and the driver’s area.

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