Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the total amount of Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds owed to VAT-registered businesses as of the end of March is approximately $7.8 billion.
He made this statement in response to a question from Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo in the House on Wednesday. Imbert said the issue of VAT refunds was not new.
In May 2010, he continued, a total of $3 billion in VAT refunds was owed.
Imbert said that figure increased to $4.6 billion by September 2015.
He added this happened despite record levels of expenditure by the then UNC-led People's Partnership coalition government.
Imbert said the PNM inherited close to $1.5 billion in outstanding VAT refunds when it assumed office after the September 7, 2015 general election.
He reminded MPs that the International Monetary Fund previously assessed there was a $4 billion gap in VAT collection.
Imbert said this was why Government was pressing ahead with implementing the Revenue Authority to reduce this gap and eliminate avenues for fraud.
He reiterated that Government is moving to clear VAT debts over the next three months.
In the House on May 10, Imbert said application forms for VAT bonds are now available online from the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR).
"VAT bonds will be issued with a three-year tenor at a fixed interest rate of 3.15 per cent per annum."
He said, "Only applicants owed in excess of $250,000, would be eligible to receive VAT bonds."
Refunds of $250,000 or less will be paid in cash between May and June.
"We are going to clear off every single VAT refund that is of the order of $250,000, in cash, in the months of May and June. That is because we are committed to the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector."
Imbert said this is being undertaken after consultations between his ministry and commercial banks.