FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert was left with curry on his face when he was informed on Tuesday that the popular seasoning/spice – which he included in a list of food items to be exempt from VAT during his reading of the 2022 budget on Monday – is already VAT zero-rated.
Told by Newsday about the error during the question-and-answer segment of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association's (TTMA) post budget seminar, the minister said this was a "typographical error." The seminar was held at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain and broadcast virtually.
“I don’t advise myself,” Imbert said when asked about the curry error.
“In preparing the list, what I did was I got the Board of Inland Revenue, the Customs and Excise Division and the Supermarket Association to look at the taxes on items that are commonly purchased by ordinary people and remove it from all of them.”
“If it (curry) is in fact a zero-rated item then it would be a typographical error,” he clarified.
In Monday’s reading, Imbert named curry among a list of items from which VAT will be removed effective November 1.
“To provide immediate relief, I propose to expand the list of basic food items that are exempted from Value Added Tax. This will include a zero-rating of basic food items such as biscuits, cooking oil, canned vegetables, cornflakes, canned fish, canned meat, curry, juice, sausages, ham, ketchup, bottled water and pigtail,” the minister said to heavy desk thumping from Government MPs.
But when Newsday checked the Finance Ministry's website, this newspaper discovered a listing which specified items that are already zero-rated in accordance to amendments made to Schedule 2 of the VAT Act. Curry was listed as zero-rated under the heading, “spices.”
“Curry has remained zero-rated, therefore such items as curry powder, curry leaves, etc, will not be taxed.” The listing indicated that the zero-rating of curry was in effect since 2016.
Imbert said on Tuesday that this error does not take away from the intent of the exemptions.
“The intent was to go through the list of items and see which of those still attract VAT and remove it. That is why we called things like bottled water.”
He added that there are still items which attract VAT, like salt and varieties of sugar, but he said there will be no exemptions on these items, because they do not go in line with government’s drive to promote healthier lifestyles.