On Friday, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre addressed public concerns regarding the Draft Tax Administration and Procedure bill.
Pierre, who is responsible for finance, said the former United Workers Party (UWP) administration initiated the draft bill in circulation.
“It only becomes important when it goes through the processes. It’s a piece of paper for circulation. That’s all it is,” the Prime Minister told a press briefing.
He explained that in December 2020, the former Minister of Finance instructed the Inland Revenue to prepare a bill to harmonise administrative collection and penal provisions of the various pieces of legislation.
He issued the following statement at the media briefing:
Thank you for joining me today as we address concerns circulating regarding the Draft Tax Administration and Procedure Act that has garnered attention. It is imperative that we always provide accurate information to the St Lucian public, to dispel any misconceptions.
First and foremost, I want to make it clear that the draft bill in circulation was initiated during the term of the UWP administration as evidenced by Cabinet Conclusion No. 1511 of 2020. The Cabinet Conclusion reads:
‘Cabinet considered a Memorandum dated 13th November, 2020, submitted by the Department of Finance and approved the request for creation of the Tax Administration and Procedures Act to harmonize the administrative, collections and penal provisions, of the various pieces of legislation that are currently administered by the Inland Revenue Department’.
Further by Memo dated December 3rd, 2020 from the Ministry of Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External affairs and Public Service headed by the former Prime Minister states:
‘The Department of Finance wishes to inform that Cabinet by Conclusion no. 1511 of 2020 considered a memorandum dated 13th November 2020, submitted by the Department of Finance and approved the request for creation of the Tax Administrative Procedures Act to harmonize the administrative, collections and penal provisions, of the various pieces of legislation that are currently administered by the Inland Revenue Department. The aforementioned is for your attention and necessary action.’
It is clear that instructions for preparation of the draft bill came from the former Minister of Finance. Let me inform the public of Saint Lucia that the cabinet which I lead has never seen the draft bill now in circulation.
It is my understanding that consistent with our approach of transparency, dialogue and open government the draft bill prepared on instruction of the former prime minister is open for public discussion.
My government policy on tax is clear. We have increased the thresh-hold to $25,500. Anyone who earns less than $2,5000.00 annually pays no income tax.
My government has given the most generous tax amnesty in the history of Saint Lucia, where all forms of fines, penalties and interest have been cancelled on all outstanding tax arrears including VAT.
It is commendable that civil society is discussing the draft bill now in circulation, which will no doubt lead to the presentation to Cabinet of a discussed document.
I urge the public, to take the opportunity to settle their outstanding taxes by May, 2024.