Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, in shedding light on the remigrant system and the ministry’s role in the process, clarified that over the years, the fiscal concessions afforded to remigrants has been the source of many scandals.
However, in a recent interview, the minister said the records of the ministry do not show any significant amount of these cases, either by complaints or action, by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the institution which grants the concessions.
“Our records do not suggest that you have had any dramatic infringements, primarily because we at Foreign Affairs in defining remigrants do not go outside the law,” the minister noted.
A remigrant is any Guyanese living abroad for a period of five years or in the case of a student, four years and wishes to return to Guyana. The person is expected to make the claim for remigrant status within six months of arrival.
That person, once classified as a remigrant by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, is then able to bring to Guyana certain items including one motor vehicle, tools of the trade and personal belongings at concessionary duty rates.
This arrangement, he explained, is a combination of the laws of Guyana and regulation orders passed by ministers.
Passports and other documents are presented to the ministry to support the claim.
The Ministry of Finance, through the GRA, is responsible for administering the tax concessions, “so if you want to bring in a car, or a motorcycle or a motorboat… the tax concessions are granted through the Ministry of Finance by GRA, that is the arrangement,” the minister stated.
He said the arrangement has worked “on and off” for many years with some specific challenges.
Another challenge lies with those persons who make the claim for the sole purpose of gaining the tax concession on the motor vehicles, which they usually sell or purchase on behalf of another individual.
“The bigger scale of the problem [lies] with those who are not bona fide remigrants but they may be seeking to facilitate someone else or more worrying they may be seeking to facilitate a business,” Minister Greenidge pointed out.
This is an illegal act and, in these instances, GRA informs the ministry.
The GRA, he reminded, has the responsibility of informing the remigrants of the stipulations, which state that the vehicle must be 2,000cc or less and be owned by the remigrant seeking the concession.
Many persons, he noted, wait beyond the stipulated 6-month period to register as a remigrant, “persons come and they may have difficulties proving they’ve been abroad, that is one side, or they come and do not make the claim, they really should make the claim before a long period expires …you find somebody comes back a year, two years or more and then comes to be classified as remigrants.”
In addition, Minister Greenidge said in 2015 the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance made several recommendations to the Cabinet, including a proposal for this responsibility to be transferred from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to the Department of Citizenship.
While the Department of Citizenship will be responsible for designating persons as remigrants, the Foreign Affairs Minister said his ministry can play a consultative role in the process, as the need arises.
The minister anticipates that by October, the Department will take up this new role, since the Department’s staff has received the necessary training to facilitate a smooth transition.
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