The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (T&T Chamber) which has repeatedly called for the matter of the long outstanding VAT refunds to be settled, is now calling on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to state how he intends to pay the remaining refunds owed to businesses after proposed VAT bonds are issued.
They believe this will not cover all the outstanding monies.
Imbert indicated last week that at the end of March 2023, outstanding VAT refunds tallied at $7.8 billion.
However, the Chamber is demanding immediate clarification regarding payment.
“Clarification on how the balance of arrears will be paid, and over what period is urgently required. In all of the discussions about payments of these long overdue refunds there have been no details of how the interest due on these cash refunds will be addressed,” the Chamber said in a statement.
Although it acknowledges the announcement by Imbert, to settle outstanding VAT refunds with the issuing of VAT bonds in the aggregate sum of $3 billion and noted that in this instance while the payout is a move in the right direction and is in keeping with the minister’s previous commitments to settle outstanding VAT refunds, this bond issue together with the proposed cash payments does not settle the full value of $7.8 billion owed to the business community.
The Chamber reiterated that outstanding VAT refunds continue to negatively impact the business community — from small to large businesses, across all industries and sectors, and by extension the wider economy.
It further said that based on feedback from members of the Chamber the delay in issuing refunds has forced businesses to increase their capital required to operate in Trinidad and Tobago, as the financing of VAT refunds has now become a part of the investment costs associated with doing business.
“In the globally competitive environment this reduces the attraction to invest in new projects.
“We note the Government’s approach as positive and we respectfully request further information on the plans for payment of the balance,” the Chamber said.
It again emphasized that the prolonged process not only hampers a healthy business environment but can also negatively impact the economy.