The Government has passed a bill that is “redundant, futile and useless,” Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday, predicting that within a year, the Income Tax (Amendment) Act will return to Parliament for another debate.
On Friday evening, Government passed the bill, intended to bring this country to international tax regulation compliance, but modified it, deleting a controversial part of the proposed revision that would have allowed local authorities to share personal information.
The Opposition had been adamant that they would not support any bill that they believed violated any constitutional right to privacy. Since the bill needed a three-fifths majority to be passed, the Government’s work-around meant they were able to pass the bill, albeit significantly weaker, without the Opposition. This would in turn give them some wiggle-room to negotiate with international agencies like the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, and the Financial Action Task Force.
“What is the purpose of having and getting information if you’re not sharing it? Then getting it is meaningless. So this matter is (void). What happened is the Government has further confused and frustrated the key issue because by watering down the bill, they have made it useless by Global Forum standards and passed another bill that replicates another law—the Proceeds of Crime Act. No new law has been passed. I imagine they just wanted to pass something,” Moonilal told Sunday Newsday.
Moonilal's colleague, Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee said the Government demonstrated that they were not committed to good legislation, but rather political optics, as he accused them of making a mockery of the compliance process.
"The Government showed that they really are not bothered by the negative repercussions of not achieving the Global Forum requirements as passing this weakened law is just the same as passing nothing. They are being politically selfish because had they really valued the effects facing this nation they would have done all in their power to reach a middle ground with the Opposition. All they are really intent on doing is playing the political blame game," Lee said in a release yesterday.
There are three bills related to the compliance issues, the Income Tax Amendment Bill 2018, the Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters Bill, 2018 and the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill, 2018. The Opposition has argued that instead of the Government’s piecemeal approach—dealing with one at a time—all three should be considered in committee stage and adjusted there to make adjustments to satisfy the Global Forum, FATF and the EU tax regulations requirements. Government on Thursday had convened a special select committee of Parliament to discuss the implications of non-compliance, for which the Opposition declined to send any representatives. Moonilal said the report from that committee was circulated at 1 am on Friday for debate at 1.30 pm, so it was impossible to fully analyse the information.
“All they’ve done is confused deadlines, requirements and even colours with all their talk of blacklists and grey lists. This is just another last minute, knee-jerk, ad hoc policy of this government,” he said.