Lawsuit: Businessman claiming misclassification of four-door pickup sues GRA
Businessman Hanson Ross of Hanson Trading, Import and Export has commenced legal proceedings against the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Godfrey Statia, claiming misclassification of two four-door pickups.
Ross has been unable to uplift the vehicles since they arrived in the country on September 19, 2021 and October 7, 2021.
The businessman is contending that he is being wrongfully taxed for the vehicles and is seeking several declarations from the court, including for it to classify the vehicles as goods vehicles and not passenger vehicles.
According to a statement from Ross, GRA is insisting that the vehicles, Toyota tundras, are passenger vehicles and not goods vehicles, causing Ross to incur a $2.9 million storage invoice from the Muneshwars Wharf. Ross is being represented by attorney-at-law Siand Dhurjon.
The legal proceedings were filed in the High Court on Wednesday last.
According to Ross the vehicles when classified as “good vehicles” would attract only about $417,000 tax for each pickup. But if classified as “passenger vehicles”, the pickups would attract about $16.7 million in taxes.
The businessman said he and his customs brokers spoke to officers of the GRA both verbally and in writing to appeal to them to have the vehicles deemed as goods vehicles.
On December 10, 2021, a letter was sent to him from GRA and stated the vehicles were “vehicles principally designed for the transport of passengers” and not goods vehicles.
“This meant that in total Ross would have had to pay approximately $16,771,949 to clear both vehicles,” the statement noted.
Dhurjon later wrote the GRA on the issue and GRA agreed to examine the vehicles and to “further review” its position. However, after examination the GRA maintained its decision that the vehicles were goods vehicles.
Ross further claimed that on June 7, 2022, GRA proceeded to publish his vehicles in their “want of entry list” in a local newspaper so that they would be “disposed of”.
The GRA, after another missive from Ross’ attorney, agreed to withdraw and remove the vehicles from the want of entry list for disposal.
With no resolution of the matter, Ross filed a Fixed Date Application under the Judicial Review Act on November 30, 2022 challenging the actions of the Commissioner General and the GRA.
Ross, through his counsel, identified at least three vehicles identical to the Tundra’s imported which are registered in the “G” series and therefore treated as goods vehicles.
The lawsuit has placed in evidence a policy of the GRA in respect of pickups which allow for a liberal scheme for the deeming of “double cab pickups” as goods vehicles once certain criteria are met. Ross is adamant that he would truly and properly fall under that criteria and he outlined why.
Ross’s lawsuit against the GRA seeks declarations that the two Toyota Tundra pickups are motor vehicles used for the transport of goods falling under the classification code 8704 of Chapter 87 of Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Customs Act, Cap.82:01. As such, he is claiming that the Commissioner General acted arbitrarily, ultra vires, unreasonably, irrationally, unfairly, abusively of power, unconstitutionally, whimsically, capriciously, against the Revenue Authority’s own policy and without any legal foundation or authority.
Ross also seeks a quashing order of certiorari to quash the Tundra’s classifications as passenger vehicles and an Order of Mandamus to compel the Commissioner General to take all steps necessary to recognize, classify and accept the said vehicles as motor vehicles used for the transport of goods and to assess the taxes and duties correspondingly.
Ross also claims from the GRA the cost of storing the said vehicles at the Muneshwers wharf to date which now amount to over $2,900,000 according to the vehicles’ storage invoices put into evidence.
The matter is currently before Chief Justice Roxane George who is likely to fix a date for hearing in the matter shortly.