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Will GOB amend GST law to avoid court ruling compliance?

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Posted: Friday, November 16, 2018. 11:26 am CST.

By BBN Staff: The Government of Belize (GOB) on Wednesday announced that there will be a sitting of the House of Representatives next Friday, November 23.

As per norm, the memo did not reveal any information on the matters to be tabled at the sitting. However, leaked information to Breaking Belize News suggests that the GOB will propose a bill to amend the General Sales Tax (GST) law in an attempt to avoid the payment of the court ruling in the CCJ case with Cruise Solutions Ltd. and Discovery Expeditions Ltd.

On October 12, GOB was ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to repay all GST paid by Cruise Solutions and Discovery Expeditions including interest as well as their legal costs.

In the case of Cruise Solutions Ltd. and Discovery Expeditions Ltd. v the Commissioner of General Sales Tax and the Attorney General of Belize, the court ruled that since under the Belize General Sales Tax Act, ‘a supply of services that are provided directly in connection with the operation or management of a ship or aircraft engaged in international transport’ is zero-rated for GST purposes, the two companies must be repaid all general sales tax (GST) assessed, charged and collected by the relevant tax authority, from February 2007 to present, plus interest of 6% per annum.

The cruise lines did not pay GST to the tour operators, alleging that the tour operators’ services of supplying tours were zero-rated, taking account of the fact that the cruise lines had not collected any GST from their passengers against which they could offset any GST payable by them. They believed themselves intended to fall outside the net of GST. However, the GST Commissioner insisted that GST was chargeable and the tour operators had to pay this charge.

Both tour operators filed a claim in Belize’s courts seeking a declaration that their services were zero-rated. They also argued that they had been unlawfully charged GST and should be refunded all monies paid to the relevant tax authority with interest.

However, they received an unfavorable ruling in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In a majority decision delivered by Justice Hayton, the CCJ said that those courts had taken too narrow an approach to the interpretation of matters covered by the “management or operation” of a ship engaged in international transport.

If the bill is passed in the House of Representatives, it would mean that GOB would free itself from the repayment terms set by the CCJ.

Belize’s Opposition Leader, John Briceno yesterday commented on the issue stating that if GOB tries to pass the bill to amend the GST Act, it would be ‘unconstitutional’ being that they lost the case and they must abide by the CCJ’s ruling.

 

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