In the Sitting of the House of Representatives on Friday, the government introduced an amendment to the General Sales Tax. The amendment seeks to block tour operators from collecting monies the CCJ ordered the government to return to operators in October. That judgement was made when David Gegg of Cruise Solutions Limited took the Government to court to have tour services to cruise lines be declared zero rated. Cruise Solutions won the case and the Government was ordered to pay back over half a million dollars in taxes, a payment PM Barrow says he now wants to have blocked with the new bill.
Honorable Prime Minister Dean Barrow: “It has become necessary and urgently necessary because of the following background. The Caribbean Court of Justice ruled in an appeal on the part of Cruise Solution via majority decision that by virtue of paragraph one item six Roman numeral 2 and or 7 of the second schedule of the General Sales Tax Act the tour services provided by the appellants directly to International Cruise Lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Passengers visiting Belize under contracts with such lines constitute zero rated supplies for the purposes of the dollar so according to them the tax that all these operators have been paying all these years was being invalidly collected because their interpretation by the President, their interpretation of the law was as it stood, these people needed to be treated as zero rated. Apart from the successful applicant who had solutioned every Tour Operator who had ever payed GST under the then regime which all thought was legal is coming is now calling upon the GST Department for a refund, we are about talking millions and millions and millions of dollars. We add our Royal’s Research Listing properly and it is not the first time it has happened in Belize but elsewhere and the Courts have held in those circumstances the Government is perfectly entitled to pass a law retrospectively curing the mischief and thus wiping out the chance of these people getting refunds. As the Court says man you can’t say that it is a new tax being imposed. You all paid it and except for one person paid it happily, those tax dollars were used to help the Industry build roads to deliver the services of Government, you cannot leave the Government and the State in a position where it will be so horribly prejudice and have its finances so completely destabilized. That is what the bill is about.”