LAPTOPS sourced both locally and abroad are exempt from taxes, with immediate effect, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert has announced.
He tweeted the news on Friday.
Attempts to reach him for further detail were unsuccessful up to Saturday afternoon.
His announcement read: "Yesterday (Thursday) based on a submission from the Ministry of Finance, in keeping with the commitment given in our 2020 General Election Manifesto, Cabinet agreed to remove all taxes on laptop computers, notebook computers and tablet computers. This measure takes effect immediately.
He also wrote: "Taxes are earmarked to be removed on the other devices mentioned on page 35 of our Manifesto, such as mobile and digital equipment, cell phones, software and accessories in the Finance Act of 2020, after the completion of the Budget Debate, in or around December 2020."
The PNM manifesto says: "To facilitate the participation of young people in particular to the technological transformation, the PNM will empower, link, incubate, support, finance and accelerate access to funding, training, and equipment for digitisation.
"We will remove all taxes on computers, mobile and digital equipment, cell phones, software, and accessories."
Although the removal of taxes is immediate, the price of laptops at some retailers have remained unchanged so far. Checks at two suppliers by Newsday showed that they had not adjusted their prices, because they had already paid the taxes on those devices.
"It will come into effect from the next shipment," one provider told Newsday.
Imbert's announcement comes after a recent appeal by Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, who called on the private sector to help provide devices for schoolchildren so that they can take part in virtual classes.
In return, some business leaders called on the Government to remove taxes and duties on the items to let them buy them at a more affordable cost.
Gadsby-Dolly estimated that out of 225,000 students across the education system, some 65,000 did not have access to computer hardware or the internet.
On Thursday, the Education Ministry delivered 168 laptops for use by early childhood care and education teachers and public schools for students with special educational needs.
The ministry said, "The distribution of devices is being done in tandem with the Adopt-A-School Initiative, where over 15 corporate entities and NGOs within TT are in discussions with the MoE (Ministry of Education) to contribute to the development of the nation’s children through sponsorship of digital devices and internet connectivity."
In 2012, the then People's Partnership government introduced a programme to provide children with laptops as they entered secondary school. It was scrapped when the PNM was elected in 2015.
On Friday, United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said, "In light of the fact that the previous Rowley Government scrapped the laptop programme, and failed to put anything in place to give students access to technology, measures should immediately be implemented to ease the burden on parents and guardians who now have to purchase devices to facilitate online learning."
She added that Government introduced taxes on online purchases in 2016 "in spite of public disapproval."
"In 2015 the PNM promised to implement nationwide Wi-Fi if elected. The PNM promised again in 2020 but we are yet to see any fruition to this promise.
"The time to implement measures to increase Internet access is now, as it has become critical to students’ ability to participate in the new normal of online learning. No child should be left behind," she said.