Minster of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, recently announced that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) completed a policy which allowed persons living with disabilities in Guyana to import smartphones and certain vehicles with the exemption of taxes.
The Tax Exemption Policy which was created by GRA removes the Import Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT) from the imports on the specified articles granted to the differently-abled persons.
By way of advertisement, GRA stated that the policy applies to persons living with physical or mental impairment caused by limitations of the body structure or bodily functions which restrict the ability to perform ordinary life activities.
It added that exemptions on vehicles are granted once. However, consideration can be given for the granting of exemptions on another vehicle, once the five-year period has concluded on the initial vehicle.
Also re-certification and recommendations by the National Commission on Disability must be completed, followed by the approval of the Commissioner-General of GRA.
Exemptions on smartphones are also granted once, but every two years.
In ensuring that one is not disqualified from benefitting from the exemptions offered, GRA highlighted a number of factors which individuals must adhere to.
Firstly, the vehicle cannot be sold, leased or transferred until after five years, with the approval of the Commissioner-General.
This same condition applies to smartphones after the two years period.
Moreover, if migrating permanently, reduced pro-rated taxes would become due and payable from the date the individual migrates.
(Proration is the act of dividing the full year’s taxes by a portion of time, for example, by the number of days in which the owner actually owns the item.)
The vehicle must be retrofitted to accommodate features and other equipment to permit its use by a differently-able person. These may include a lift, special seats (e.g. swivel), wheel chair space and similar enabling features.
The application process and procedures for the exemptions are now being finalized by the Ministry of Public Telecommunication and the National Commission on Disabilities.
Persons will also be granted tax rebates on handsets with accessibility features, allowing visually and hearing-impaired persons to afford smartphones.
Minister Hughes had said that, the ministry had made the proposal to Minister of Finance Winston Jordan in 2018, who immediately took it on board. Minister Jordan made the announcement during his November 2018 Budget presentation.
The telecommunications minister had this to say about the policy, “This is another means of empowering people. With the increased use in technology it opens many doors for them, and we hope that it will strengthen their confidence to seek or create employment and use IT for their own development and our national growth,”
According to her, Guyana’s last census pegged its disability community at 49,000 persons. That number, she said has increased as it also includes senior citizens who have developed age-related hearing and physical impairment.
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