FORMER Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony has reacted strongly to claims by sandals resorts International (SRI) that under his watch, members of his party’s leadership continued to wrongfully accuse the hotel chain of owing government while he, as Finance Minister, knew differently. The former PM, I n a statement issued yesterday, strongly denied all Sandals’ claims and challenged the company – and the government of Saint Lucia – to bare the facts and present the full details to the public, now that the cabinet of Minister has intervened on the company’s interest.
Read the statement below…
ON September 17, 2018, Sandals Resort International issued a Press statement on the decision of the Allen Chastanet led Cabinet to waive Withholding Taxes on the Sandals Resorts International which had been assessed by the Inland Revenue Department for the period 2001 to 2009.
Despite the fact that I have never made public comments on this issue, Sandals Resorts International saw it fit to drag my name and reputation in the debate in its attempt to justify the decision of the Allen Chastanet led Government to waive the Withholding Tax liability on its behalf.
I am particularly concerned about the imputations in the following paragraph of the Press Statement: ‘Since the former Prime Minister was fully aware of the circumstances surrounding this matter, it is very unfortunate that members of his party are among those being allowed to consistently misrepresent this issue to the public of Saint Lucia. Sandals never and does not owe the government of Saint Lucia any outstanding money. Rather this dispute with Inland Revenue over withholding taxes on insurance premiums was an old and exceptional matter that required resolution if SRI was able to finance new investments on the island. Indeed the only purpose served by delaying it was to have derailed the expansion works that were planned for the Sandals Grande Saint Lucian.’
This paragraph contains two insinuations which I totally reject as completely false: The first is the suggestion that despite my knowledge of ‘the circumstances surrounding this matter’ I am one of those allowing members of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, among others, ‘to consistently misrepresent the issue.’ Secondly, I was one of those involved in ‘delaying’ the resolution of the issue and this served the purpose to derail the ‘expansion works that were planned for the Sandals Grande Saint Lucian.’
These two statements, in their imputations, are false and highly defamatory for the following reasons:
(i) To start with, the assessments to tax was made by the Inland Revenue Department (ii) The Revenue Laws of Saint Lucia provide for challenges to any assessment by any taxpayer who is ‘aggrieved by an assessment or determination’ by the Comptroller of Inland Revenue
(ii) (iii) As Minister of Finance, I considered it imprudent and unlawful for me or the Cabinet to intervene in the determination of assessments by the Inland Revenue Department;
(iii) (iv) I was aware that Sandals had been assessed by the Inland Revenue Department for the payment of Withholding Taxes on insurance premiums between the years 2001 to 2009 because I was approached by Mr. Richard Peterkin on behalf of Sandals on the issue;
(iv) (v) My position has always been very clear that I do not and will not intervene in these matters. Consequently, I gave absolutely no undertaking to Sandals or any officer or representative of Sandals that the Government which I led would intervene to resolve the complaint by Sandals in its favour;
(v) (vi) In all the years that I have served Saint Lucia as Minister of Finance, I have never intervened to direct the Inland Revenue Department in matters of tax liability. I have always held the view that matters of tax liability between the tax payer and the Department of Inland Revenue are sacred. No Comptroller of Inland Revenue Department could say that I have ever directed the Department to withdraw or alter or change assessments made by the Department on any individual or corporate entity. The most that I have done is to urge the taxpayer and the Department to compromise and settle issues of liability amicably as litigation is usually a costly affair not only for the taxpayer but also for the Government; (
(vi) (vii) If Sandals Resort International was so convinced that the professional advice which it said it received was ‘right’ then all it had to do was to appeal the decision of the Comptroller of Inland Revenue to the Income Tax Appeals Commissioners, established by section 108 of the Income Tax Act, Cap 15.02. It did not. Instead, it appealed to and leveraged the Chastanet Government to intervene and set aside the assessment made by the Department of Inland Revenue.
I note that so far, the public has only heard from Sandals Resorts International and the ministers of Chastanet’s government on the issue.
Since the Cabinet decision to waive the Withholding Taxes was purportedly made by the Cabinet under section 130 of the Income Tax Act, Cap 15.02, it is now the duty and obligation of the Government of Saint Lucia to come clean, and make available to the public all documentation that it considered in arriving at its decision.
This includes the basis of the assessment of Sandals Resorts International by the Inland Revenue Department, requests by the Government for information from the Department of Inland Revenue and recommendations, if any, made to the Government of Saint Lucia by the Department of Inland Revenue.
This is especially the case because Section 130, when applied, only permits the Cabinet to remit any tax if ‘it is satisfied that it is just and necessary to do so.”
The public needs to know the grounds on which the Cabinet arrived at its decision that it was ‘just and necessary’ to waive the Withholding Taxes assessed on Sandals Resort International.