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Tuesday 22 October 2019
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Imbert: V’zuelans must pay health surcharge

File photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert  Photo by Jeff K. Mayers.
File photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert Photo by Jeff K. Mayers.

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert has said registered Venezuelans will not have to contribute to the National Insurance Service (NIS) but will have to pay taxes, including health surcharge.

He was contributing to debate on Friday on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non Profit Organisations) Bill 2019.

He said there is a provision to exempt anyone from the NIS.

"There is a point of view that it is designed only for the current registration of Venezuelan migrants.

"But that is only a small part of the story, as usual. This will allow people to be exempt from NIS if they come in for short periods.

"What is the point of insisting someone contribute to NIS if they are only here for a very short period of time? The paperwork alone in processing that application would cost more than the contributions received and the benefits."

He said once someone is registered for tax and are income earners they have to pay health surcharge.

"I've heard some old talk from over there (in the Opposition). I just want to repeat that once a person is above the personal allowance, they have to pay tax, and they have to pay all forms of tax. All forms of tax.

"The misinformation outside there that Venezuelans don't have to pay tax – nonsense."

Earlier, during prime minister's questions, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked if the Venezuelans working in TT for a year will have to pay health surcharge.

Dr Rowley replied the Government is making steps to ensure the laws will be observed and where the laws do not have provision, "We will see to the business of Parliament, so stated, to make the rectifications."

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh asked on what basis Government decided the Venezuelans should not pay NIS if employed. Rowley replied that once there is paying into the NIS there is an expectation and a requirement that the service provides benefits.

"It is because we do not want to add additional persons making claims for benefits on the NIS why we have separated and differentiated this body of people while allowing them to stay in our country but not affording them access to lay claims on the National Insurance service."

Gopeesingh asked if it would not be an advantage to employers to hire Venezuelans and not have to pay NIS. Rowley said he did not expect this to be a major consideration, as the business community has been saying it is short of workers. He added that registration will prevent the Venezuelan workers from being exploited.

"I don't expect it to be a permanent feature. For how long we do not know."

Rowley said the beneficiaries of the process will have to return in six months for a review and at the end of the year there will be another review. He said depending on what is happening in Venezuela and TT, a decision will be taken.

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