The attention of the Saint Lucia Labour Party has been drawn to Cabinet Conclusion Number 642 of 2017, dated August 21, 2017, which grants the “Sandals Resorts International Group 100% exemption from the payment of Withholding Tax, for the period 2001 to 2009.”
The effect of this decision is to waive the payment of Withholding Tax owed by the Sandals Group over a period of eight years.
By all accounts, this decision by the Cabinet of Ministers, purportedly made pursuant to section 130(1) of the Income Tax Act, Cap 15.02, is extraordinary and highly unusual. The Prime Minister and Minister for Finance must explain to the public:
- Why the decision was taken;
- Whether the decision was taken on the recommendation of the Comptroller of Inland Revenue;
- The total revenue which has been lost; and
- Whether the same exemption will be applied to other hoteliers.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party notes that Section 130 (1) allows Cabinet to exempt or remit the payment of taxes by anyone where it is satisfied that it is just and necessary. However, at a time when the Prime Minister has said that the country is not earning enough revenue to meet the cost of basic social services, when many schools have re-opened in a dilapidated state, when parents cannot afford school books and uniform, when the hospitals can no longer provide basic health care and medicines, the Saint Lucia Labour Party calls on the Prime Minister to explain how exempting Sandals from paying millions of dollars in taxes is just and necessary!