-KFC, other companies targeted in crackdown
“It is barefaced what some of these businesses are doing…thinking that they are untouchable. Some are masquerading as charities but they are really culprits and criminals” – Sattaur.
The state’s tax agency, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), is getting ready to go after several
prominent companies which have been failing to pay their taxes, duties and other commitments.
Yesterday, GRA’s Commissioner-General Khurshid Sattaur, admitted that there is a substantial number of businesses that are failing to pay their taxes, although judgements were handed down by the courts, in several of the cases.
However, despite the court judgements, the tax agency has continued to face problems collecting the monies.
To make matters worse, some companies have created separate holding and operating entities, all with the sole aim of evading taxes. While the operating companies would handle the day-to-day operations, it owns no assets, making it difficult for prosecutors to go after them.
While admitting that it is a problem, Sattaur declined to name the companies, indicating that the New Year will see an aggressive approach by GRA.
“We will be issuing press releases…there will be more releases coming as to our work.”
On Wednesday, the tax agency accused B.K. International, a major contractor for government projects, of not adhering to procedures of its Customs arm.
GRA also said that it has filed proceedings in court to wind up DIDCO Trading, a Ruimveldt-based business, which owes around $180M in employees’ taxes. Officials have since said that GRA may be going after Friendship Hotel and Restaurant Holdings Limited, owner of the KFCs fast food outlets across the country.
There has been a growing number of reports that contractors, especially, because of an unstable workforce, have been the main culprits in evading taxes.
With billions of dollars paid annually by the state and other operating arms, there is cause for concerns because the country has been losing out billions from revenues.
Last year alone, government reported that collections were around $89B and there is the belief in some quarters that this could be increased by at least another 40% or $36B.
“It is barefaced what some of these businesses are doing…thinking that they are untouchable. Some are masquerading as charities but they are culprits and criminals,” the GRA boss said.
Meanwhile, in press statements issued on Wednesday, the tax agency slammed prominent contractor, B.K. International, over accusations that delays by the agency in obtaining duty free concessions caused that company to fall short on a number of critical sea defense projects.
It will be recalled that, recently, B.K. International was warned by the European Union (EU) to speed up work on several contracts that were behind time. The contracts, to the tune of $3.7B, were awarded to B.K. International two years ago.
The monies are all grants and will not have to be repaid to the EU. The EU, Guyana’s largest donor for critical sea defence works, believed that the delays were caused mainly by a lack of capacity in managing the large portfolio of the contract and to some extent inadequate provision of resources for the completion of the jobs which stretch from Essequibo to Springlands, Berbice.
GRA said that B.K. International Inc. was granted several contracts with the Government of Guyana to complete a number of road and sea defense projects.
“GRA has always been facilitating and expediting the clearance of goods imported by BK International Inc., through the Prior to Processing (PTP) facility. The PTP facility is used to clear time sensitive commodities and allows for the shipment to be released before the payment of duties and taxes (if any) and the processing of the relevant documentation.”
GRA explained that persons or companies who access this facility are usually given a time frame within which to perfect or complete their documents.
“However, BK International Inc. has not been complying with the normal procedures and has not been perfecting the documents for the goods released, despite us sending several reminders to the various companies owned by Mr. Brian Tiwari.”
349 transactions outstanding
According to GRA, BK International Inc. and its other entities (BK Quarries Inc., Linden Quarries and BK Marine), owned by Tiwari, have approximately 349 outstanding Prior to Processing documents.
“The incompletion of the unperfected documents has by extension resulted in delays in the completion of aircraft and ship files at the Customs & Trade Administration.”
Regarding the accusations by Tiwari that it was GRA’s fault that he suffered delays, the agency said that B.K. International applied for the release of goods through the PTP facility and was denied based on his companies’ failure to perfect the outstanding documents.
“This was communicated to Mr. Tiwarie in a written response dated December 12, 2011.”
The GRA said it was willing to revert to expediting the processing of the goods through the normal process which includes the issuance of tax exemption letters and the processing of documents through the Customs & Trade Administration.
“Mr. Tiwarie was also assured that the complete process would take no longer than five working days. To date Mr. Tiwarie has not utilized this option.”
Sattaur, in the statement, noted that “Tiwari seems reluctant to follow the laws, policies and procedures administered as outlined by the GRA and we cannot continue to facilitate his companies by releasing goods prior to processing of documents unless he complies”.
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