GRA to pay Chinese importer it blocked from filing declarations

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The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the country’s main tax regulatory body, has been ordered by High Court Judge Fidela Corbin-Lincoln to pay costs to a Chinese importer it had blocked from electronically filing declarations when he failed to pay additional duties the entity demanded in 2020.

Shanglin Lin, an importer of diapers and sanitary products from China, had taken the GRA to court over claims that his imports were short levied. He was represented by attorney Manoj Narayan by Maritha Halley represented the GRA.

In January 2020, the GRA in a letter signed by its Deputy Commissioner of Customs, Excise and Trade Operations Patrick Hyman had demanded that Lin pay an additional $5.7 million in duties for several containers of diapers he imported between January and June 2019.

The letter dated January 03, 2020 from GRA asked that the monies are paid within less than two weeks, by January 14, 2020. But when Shanglin failed to make the payment, he was blocked months later from electronically filing declarations.

This prompted his move to the Court, asking that the letter be set aside. The businessman also asked the Court to declare as unlawful the decision to block him from uploading documents to the electronic processing system.

He argued that being the only importer for the Prime Diapers which are of cheaper quality, he subscribed to all GRA’s processes and paid the duty which was assessed based on invoices he submitted.

He said at no time did the GRA raise concerns regarding the invoices or declared value of the products; not even before the January 03 letter.

That letter, he said, claimed that because of a mistake and anomalies, a reassessment showed that he needed to pay the additional $5.7 million in duties.

The letter, however, did not provide details on the anomalies. Disappointed at the reassessment and imposition of additional taxes on his goods and imported items, Shanglin has managed to secure the declarations he sought.

The judge declared that the GRA’s purported reassessment and demand for additional duties was unlawful and unfair and said the decision to block Shanglin from uploading documents to its electronic processing system was also unlawful.

In the process, Justice Corbin-Lincoln quashed GRA’s demand and said it was in breach of the Customs Act Cap. 82:01 and subsidiary legislation.

The judge ruled that cost shall be assessed and agreed within 21 days. If costs are not agreed, then Shanglin is authorized to file and serve a Bill of Costs by November 26, 2021.

The judge found that GRA failed to establish the basis upon which it embarked on a reassessment, including the methodology employed.  The matter is now adjourned to February 2022 for assessment of costs.

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