Government can do nothing if property owners refuse to pay the Municipal Solid Waste Tax, and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler misunderstood the law when he said people facing hardship must pay, then seek a refund.
These views were put forward by attorney-at-law Senator Wilfred Abrahams to Barbadians gathered at the Foundation School last night for a rally against the new tax.
“There is no provision at all in this act for the Government to come behind you for the money if you don’t pay it. There is no provision in this act for the Government to seize your land, and sell your land if you do not pay.”
The Barbados Labour Party senator hurriedly went on to make clear he was not inciting non-payment of the levy.
“Now understand, I am not telling you all to not pay the tax. I would never stand up here and say do not pay the tax. I am saying if you read the act, the act says if you are experiencing hardship you can apply to the minister for a remission or refund.”
On the issue of payments, he said a recent statement by Sinckler pointed to his misinterpreting of the law’s wording.
“The Minister of Finance got up and told the public of Barbados that you have to pay the tax first, and then explain why there was a hardship so you couldn’t pay it, and then ask to get back the money that you pay, which you couldn’t pay in the first place. That is complete nonsense.”
Abrahams reasoned that where the law provided for remit or refund, the term remit pointed to relief from payment that could be granted before payment was made.
“Remit also means to alleviate from pain, to exempt from pain or to waive,” the attorney said.
He compared that new law to what obtained in the Land Tax Act.
“If you are experiencing hardship, you can write for relief from your land tax, and they can waive or adjust it. And they can do this before you pay.
“A lot of people have done it. The pensioners do a lot of it. People who are in difficulty know that if you cannot pay your land tax you can write asking for relief before you pay.”
Abrahams then read out the relevant clauses in both laws to show that despite the wording being the same, Government was proposing to apply them differently.
“They took the wording out of the Land Tax Act and put the same wording in the Solid Waste Tax Act, but are telling you that where you can write before you pay the tax for your land tax, with the exact same wording you cannot write under the Solid Waste Tax.”