Imbert extends deadline for TTRA again

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has again extended the deadline for the implementation of the long-touted Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA). 

State attorneys made the disclosure yesterday in correspondence sent to the Court of Appeal in relation to a pending appeal from the Public Services Association (PSA), over the dismissal of its lawsuit regarding the move to replace the Customs and Excise Division (CED) and the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) with the TTRA. 

In the correspondence, obtained by Guardian Media, state attorney Svetlana Dass, on behalf of the Chief State Solicitor, announced that Imbert had decided to extend the deadline, which was initially set as August before being deferred to December 1, to March 1. 

Dass stated that the decision, which was made for “operational reasons”, would be formalised in an official order to be issued today. 

The decision means that the PSA would no longer have to pursue an interim injunction pending the determination of the appeal. 

In the lawsuit, the PSA, through its member and customs officer Terrisa Dhoray, is challenging the constitutional validity of the T&T Revenue Act 2021. 

She contended that certain segments of the legislation are unconstitutional as they seek to interfere with the terms and conditions of employment of public servants currently assigned to the CED and IRD. 

She also claimed that the Government did not have the power to delegate its tax revenue collection duties. 

The lawsuit specifically focused on Section 18 of the legislation which was proclaimed by President Christine Kangaloo on April 24.

The section gives public servants three months to make a decision on their future employment upon the operationalisation of the TTRA. 

Affected public servants have the choice to voluntarily resign from the Public Service, accept a transfer to the TTRA, or be transferred to another office in the Public Service. 

In its defence, the Government has claimed that tax collection could be delegated once guidelines are provided by Parliament. 

On November 17, the case was dismissed by High Court Judge Westmin James. 

Justice James ruled that tax collection is not a core governmental function that is non-delegable. 

While he noted that taxation is a key source of a government’s revenue and that the process of assessing and collecting taxes is essential, he noted that there were currently instances of private entities being able to collect taxes on the government’s behalf. 

He also pointed out that several foreign countries have set up similar specialist bodies to deal with the “complexities” of modern taxation. 

Justice James also ruled that the delegation of the assessment and collection of taxes to a state corporation under the control of the Minister of Finance was permitted as enforcement duties of the TTRA would still be performed by public servants, who are not under the direct control of the minister or the TTRA board. 

In the appeal, the PSA has identified ten grounds on which it claims Justice James erred in coming to his decision. 

Imbert extends deadline for TTRA again

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