Another tax is about to hit consumers below the belt. The Guyana Revenue Authority has indicated that persons who import vehicles with used tyres will be subject to a penalty.
This is tantamount to the GRA imposing a new tax on the Guyanese people.
Yet, the GRA has not yet indicated when parliament would have met to have given approval for the GRA to impose such penalties. Nor has the GRA quoted under which provision of the laws that it administers empowers it to charge this penalty as it describes it.
For a penalty to be imposed some law has to be broken and that law itself must specify the penalties which can be applied. It does seem as if GRA is acting under the belief that since the Minister of Finance has announced a prohibition on the importation of use tyres that the GRA is free to assume that anyone who breaches this policy directive is liable to be fined as the GRA deems fit.
This, however, is not how the law operates. It is the Minister with responsibility for trade, which in Guyana’s case is the Minister of Business, who has to issue an Order prohibiting absolutely or not absolutely, the prohibition of use tyres.
If such an Order has been issued, it is for the Minister with responsibility for foreign trade, or the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute persons who have breached these laws. The Guyana Revenue Authority merely plays an agency function in this regard. It has no legal standing to impose any fines in this regard. In the case of the Trade Act, it is only the court which can impose penalties and these penalties include jail.
Also, the GRA cannot transpose a breach under one law into a right to penalize the person who breached the law under another law. The GRA therefore must explain where it has derived the authority to impose a penalty on persons. And the GRA must be reminded that a determination of a breach of the law rests with the court.
The whole issue is even more confusing because the penalties reportedly apply to vehicles which are imported with used tyres. The Minister of Finance in his Budget speech of 2016 had indicated that it was the importation of used tyres which would not be allowed.
What the GRA is trying to do, is to treat the importation of a car with used tyres and the importation of used tyres under the same law. This is not a great area. It is like saying to someone you can import a car but you cannot import it with LED lights. The prohibition of LED lights applies to cars which drive with such lights on the road. Even if a car is imported with LED lights, it is for the road traffic authorities to say that the car cannot be driven with such lights but they cannot ban the importation of a car with such lights, unless the prohibition contained in the Trade Act expressly provides for such a prohibition. With cars tyres are part of vehicle.
A person importing a car is not importing tyres. He is importing a vehicle. The vehicle may or may not have used tyres. The law therefore has to expressly state that the importation of used tyres on vehicles is prohibited.
But this presents a dilemma for importers. The importer would have no control over what the exporter sends to him. He orders a car. The exporter disregards his instructions to ensure that the car has new tyres and sends the car with used tyres. The importer has no knowledge that this would have been done. Yet when the vehicle arrives he is saddled with a charge over which he has had no control.
And of course he has to pay a fine, then change all the tyres and go and buy new ones. This is called triple whammy.
By the way, in respect to that fancy vehicle with the false number plates which was allegedly released by the GRA which subsequently allowed the import papers to be processed two years after importation, was it treated at the time the import duties were paid as having new or used tyres?
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