More than one week after shocking disclosures that a company, closely associated to Dr. Richard Van West Charles, tendered fake Customs documents which caused Government to lose millions
in taxes, there has been deafening silence.
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), a few days ago, had called in the official, who is chief of the state-owned Guyana Water Inc.
However, there has not been any official statement from GRA on the matter.
The fuel tax is one of the biggest revenue earner for the state.
On the other hand, the authority has been tough on other taxpayers, including office workers and self-employed.
Calls to Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia were not immediately returned.
On Monday, Van West Charles was reportedly summoned to the GRA headquarters on Camp Street.
Sources had indicated that while charges by GRA are not likely at this stage, the authority clearly has options.
“If it is found that shipments are under-valued then we go back to past shipments and re-assess them with the correct taxes. In other words, the taxpayer will have to pay the adjusted tax. That is in essence what it is in layman’s terms.”
Outspoken accountant and lawyer, Christopher Ram, was harsh about the issue.
“These are extremely serious and disturbing allegations and I would refrain from offering any comment other than to say that it requires an urgent and impartial investigation. The importation of fuel is the single largest Balance of Payment item with implication for tax revenues.”
According to Ram, it is never a healthy sign when a high party official with a full time job gets involved in a business activity which has for years been associated with corruption, tax evasion and other illegalities.
“It is for this reason that a multi-agency investigation should be commenced immediately.”
Additional, Customs records released last week revealed that Atlantic Fuel Inc., the company on which Van West Charles is a director, indicated that one shipment purchased in the free trade border area at Morawhanna, North West District, Region One, was under-invoiced.
Morawhanna is the gateway to Region One, with persons coming from Venezuela by water, expected to check in at the immigration operations there. Also there is a team of Guyana Revenue Authority officers.
For a number of years, fuel has been brought to that area and local operators would make purchases, taking it to mining locations in the hinterlands and to the coastlands.
The operators would pay taxes there.
It appears that Atlantic Fuels, like a number of other operators, have been capitalizing on the fuel there which on average cost just US$0.50 pe
r liter, a tad cheaper than Trinidad and other places.
However, according to Customs documents, Atlantic Fuel presented GRA with a Commercial Invoice dated September 25, 2018, which used a CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) price of US$0.25, half of the normal price.
The amount of fuel was about 270,000 liters (71,326 US gallons).
Atlantic Fuel declared that the cost was US$67,500 which caused GRA to collect only $14M in taxes.
On the Customs documents, the address was listed in Meadowbrook, the same address as Van West Charles.
The correct taxes should have been double that amount- which is almost $28M in taxes.
This latest disclosure comes on the heels of another shipment in September/October last year by the same company which was brought on a fuel ship, named “Century”.
The shipment of 639,000 liters (170,000 US gallons) was supposed to cost US$379,100.
However, Atlantic Fuel’s director, Lear Goring, filed documents which pegged it at US$159,750.
The state reported losses of $32M in taxes because of that.
In Customs terms, the deliberate declaration of prices below what was actually the value or what was paid is known as under-invoicing.
GRA uses the cost to assess taxes.
Atlantic Fuel was granted a licence in late 2015, months after the Coalition Government took office.
Van West Charles, the son-in-law of former President, Forbes Burnham, received the licence for Atlantic Fuel in just over a month from the Guyana Energy Agency.
Normally, licences take several months to be issued, because of stringent requirements, including environmental permits and time it takes to ready storage and other facilities.
Several persons have complained of the difficulties in the application process.
Fuel trade is a highly lucrative business.
It is one of the biggest earners for government, in terms of the taxes it rakes in.
However, bribery and collusion, even involving GEA staffers, have been proving a problem.
There have been complaints that while GRA has been squeezing small taxpayers, it seems to be not moving fast enough to tackle the tax evaders involved in the fuel trade.
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