Today teachers were picketing in front of a number of companies’ offices across the nation including the various branches of BTL. They contend that the company is one of eight that owes millions of dollars. The company called a press conference to refute those claims. Board Chairman Markhelm Lizarraga explained.
Markhelm Lizarraga, Chairman, BTL Board: “It is the position of BTL that we do not owe any taxes in arrears. When we heard the recent narrative in the media and on social media we reached out to the unions to share our position and to see if we could understand their position on the matter. It is most unfortunate that all our attempts to communicate with and all outreach to the teachers union remains unanswered. We also wrote to the tax department requesting clarity on the matter because BTL’s records and BTL’s audited financials do not indicate any outstanding tax arrears for the company. The last mention of tax arrears on this matter is reflected in our financial statements for the year ended 31st March 2011 which stated that there was a tax assessment reversal for previous years and I quote “During 2011 the group was advised by the Government of Belize that these taxes would be collected from the consideration payable for the shares acquired by the Government of Belize.”
Chairman Lizarraga went on to explain that there was an issue of unpaid taxes back when the Ashcroft-related interests controlled the company. Since nationalization, however, he says those matters were settled.
Markhelm Lizarraga, Chairman, BTL Board: “Subsequent to our inquiry of tax department, which again was only triggered by the tax arrears rumors, we received a letter yesterday dated April 15th 2021 that there were outstanding arrears for the period 2002 to 2010. Prior to this reply from the tax department which we prompted from the department BTL has not received nor can it find any communications in its records after June 2010 from the tax department concerning these matters. After the acquisition of BTL in 2009 the then board of directors were provided information by management that the previous owners, the Ashcroft Group, were not paying business tax on international settlements. This was related to the revenue that is due from foreign telephone operators. The company at the time called in the tax department to look into this matter. The income tax department audit commenced in early 2010 for the period commencing April 2002 after BTL provided the requisite information in April 2010 BTL was advised by the Income Tax Department that due to section 39 of the Income and Business Tax Act that the years 2002 to 2006 were statute barred and the period of the audit would be from January 2005 to March of 2010. In June 2010 the audit ended and the company was assessed of taxes for the period January 2005 to March 2010 in the amount of eighteen point two million. Based on those findings BTL commenced to pay business tax on international settlement revenues as of September 2009 when the company became government owned.”
Lizarraga says he hopes that with their releasing this information, the doubts and concerns from the unions may be over and done with.
Markhelm Lizarraga, Chairman, BTL Board: “BTL is being current with its tax obligations and it’s certainly even doing its utmost to become current on its dividend obligations because for the first time in years we’ve paid our dividends to the Government of Belize. In reference to the GST matter that was heard of it is my understanding that that has completely settled. So I don’t know if you want to add anything to that CEO but it’s certainly not listed as any of our liabilities at this time.”
Ivan Tesucum, CEO, BTL: “What I want to clear up is that we have always paid our taxes. I think that the way the question was posed as though we’re not paying, we have always paid our taxes, BTL always pays its general sales tax and that has now been cleared up. We have a letter that we’ve received from the Director General of the Belize Tax Service that has now put that to rest.”
That was the chairman of BTL, Markhelm Lizarraga.