San­dals Tax Set­tle­ment Rat­tles Op­po­si­tion Tim­bers!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BUSINESS - By Star Re­porter

Yet again cu­ri­ous gazes fall on Saint Lu­cia's gov­ern­ment as at­ten­tion is drawn to the sud­den end of an eight-year-old dis­pute. The is­sue, re­cently brought into the pub­lic do­main, in­volves one of our bea­cons of lux­ury, the main rea­son you are likely to see a stun­ningly over-sat­u­rated im­age of sim­ply beau­ti­ful Saint Lu­cia slid­ing along your screen dur­ing a ca­sual stroll through so­cial me­dia: San­dals, more specif­i­cally San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional (SRI). Then there is that in­trud­ing but ben­e­fi­cial pres­ence, the In­land Rev­enue Depart­ment—and a cash bal­ance of $24.4 mil­lion.

The IRD claimed that for the pe­riod of 2001–2009 a pay­ment should have been made in re­spect of with­hold­ing taxes as­sessed on insurance costs al­lo­cated to SRI's three re­sort com­pa­nies - that ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from San­dals is­sued ear­lier this week. The amount to­tals $24.4 mil­lion in­clu­sive of ac­cu­mu­lated in­ter­est and penal­ties.

The dis­pute, which was in Au­gust taken up by the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters, was of­fi­cially set­tled, with SRI be­ing ex­empted from ac­count­ing for the out­stand­ing with­hold­ing tax. As the min­is­ter in the fi­nance depart­ment put it: “In all fair­ness, we were given all the ev­i­dence and in Cab­i­net we looked at ev­ery­thing. We asked all the tough ques­tions . . . we al­ways come up with the right de­ci­sions on be­half of the gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Saint. Lu­cia.”

No sur­prise that the op­po­si­tion Saint Lu­cia Labour Party begged to dif­fer. Ac­cord­ing to op­po­si­tion leader Phillip J. Pierre and his fel­low MP Ernest Hil­laire at a press con­fer­ence Thurs­day, the ex­empted with­hold­ing tax in ques­tion is “monies to be al­lo­cated to the prepa­ra­tion and re­fur­bish­ing of pub­lic goods.”They ex­pressed con­cern with the Cab­i­net's in­volve­ment, which they claimed was not reg­u­lar prac­tice. Nor­mally, they said, un­re­solved dis­putes with the IRD are brought be­fore com­mis­sion­ers. If still un­re­solved, they are taken to the courts, and then the high courts be­fore the gov­ern­ment in­ter­venes.

(See full story on page 13.)

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