Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has defended his ministry’s imposition of the two per cent National Social Responsibility Levy on a shipment of wheelchairs donated to the Barbados Council for the Disabled.
The Council complained today that the tax was applied to the shipment even though it had arrived in the Bridgetown Port before the levy went into force on September 1.
However, in seeking to set the record straight on the matter, Sinckler said in the same way the Council had requested a waiver of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and other Government charges, it could have made the same request with respect to the National Social Responsibility Levy.
“The Council knows what to do . . . . It is the Church of Latter Day Saints that brought in the wheelchairs and donated them to the Council. Their president wrote a letter [to the Ministry]. When they wrote, there was no levy and we approved the waiver of taxes and VAT and on excise and duties and whatever else would have been applicable to them,” Sinckler told Barbados TODAY.
He went on to explain that while the shipment was sitting in the Bridgetown Port, the levy went into force.
“The items were not cleared from the Port . . . . All they [the Council] had to do was come back to the ministry and say they want the levy waived and we would have done that,” he said, while suggesting that “they must have [gone] ahead and paid it”.
However, he stressed: “I didn’t ask them to pay it. They didn’t have to pay it . . . it’s a charitable donation. So all they had to do was come back to the ministry and say, ‘well you know when we applied there was no levy, but there is a levy now. We would like to get the levy waived’ and we would have waived it. There ain’t nuh big thing,” Sinckler said.
In fact, he told Barbados TODAY he had telephoned the Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Port Inc., David Jean Marie and asked him to waive the port charges, which had been applied while the wheelchairs were still being housed there. He also said he had spoken to the President of the Senate, Kerryann Ifill, who is the research project officer for the BCD, about the situation.
“I called David Jean-Marie and I said, ‘David, the Council had some stuff in there and I spoke to [Government Senator] Kerryann Ifill, and I said to David Jean-Marie, the Council had some wheelchairs in there . . . the ministry was a bit behind in getting the things out . . . they would have attracted some port charges, I want you to waive the port charges for them. He said, ‘ok, no probem, it is a charitable organization . . . just tell them write an official letter’,” the Minister of Finance explained.
Sinckler said he subsequently spoke to Ifill and told her he had recieved the go ahead from Jean-Marie to waive the charges and that all she had to do was to write a letter to place on the record.
“And that’s it . . . So the same thing they could have been done with the levy,” Sinckler said.
However, he still appeared to be willing to accommodate the disabled community, telling Barbados TODAY they could still write and request a waiver.
“Of course they can still write. It’s a charitable donation of wheelchairs. The wheelchairs [are] going to the Council and some are going to the National Assistance Board,” Minister Sinckler acknowledged.