There is no escaping the taxman for motorists whose road tax payments were due before July 1, when the new measures announced last month by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley took effect.
Mottley had announced in her June 11 mini Budget that the road tax would be abolished effective July 1 this year, to be replaced by a tax of 40 cents per litre on gasoline and diesel and five cents per litre on kerosene.
Many drivers whose taxes expired mere days before the road tax was abolished have been going to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) for their documents only to discover that they are required to make the payments.
This has caused a furore, particularly after Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid appeared to suggest last week that all they needed to do to avoid conflict with the law was to park their vehicles until July 1, although he had insisted that they pay their taxes.
“You still have to pay. Obviously, if your road tax is due July 1, then no, because that is when the new matter comes into effect.
“The law states that you have to pay road tax. That change will come July 1. If your road tax is due June 28 and you do not pay your road tax I will suggest you put down your car for the two days. If the police holds you, you will be found to be without your road tax for two days,” Duguid said two weeks ago during a tour of White Hill, St Andrew.
However, as the outcry over the tax continued, Duguid told a news conference today all road taxes that were due before July 1 must be paid, as he sought to clarify his previous statement.
“What has happened obviously during this matter is that some people who thought that they only had two or three days left, or in some cases two or three weeks, had opted not to pay their road tax. And I made it very clear in White Hill that if you did not pay your road tax, you would be running afoul of the law . . . and obviously you had to pay your road tax,” the minister told journalists at the joint news conference with Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw and Acting Minister of Finance Ryan Straughn at Government Headquarters this afternoon to clarify payment issues with the road tax, as well as the removal of the National Social Responsibility Levy on imported goods effective last Sunday.
Duguid said people concluded from his comments that if they did not pay up and had put down their vehicles, no taxes would be due, which he said was clearly not the case.
“The tax remains due. My comments really were related to how they would be with respect to the law in terms on if the police stopped them . . . not with respect to whether the road tax is due or not. Road tax continues to be due,” he stressed.
The minister sought to quell the uproar by announcing that provision had been made with BRA for those with outstanding road taxes to pay in installments.
“After our meeting with the Minister of Finance, the Barbados Revenue Authority has a system in place where you can pay all taxes in installments. And we are extending that installment payment to the due road tax as well. So, going forward, if you have road taxes that are due, what you can do is when you present to the Licensing Authority, you can make arrangements to pay your due road taxes in installments,” Duguid said.
However, consumer rights advocate Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt is not buying Duguid’s explanation, complaining that what was happening was the equivalent of double taxation.
Gibbs-Taitt, the director general of the Barbados Consumers Research Organization (BARCRO), described the development as “infantile”, while arguing for forgiveness of those debts.
“I am at a loss why any Government would pursue getting two or three days because someone put their cars down and decide that that tax date would run from the other date. I don’t understand what the big deal is if the persons put their car down until the change in taxation that the individual did not ask for,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I think any Government that wants to push this issue by making people pay for a few days of so-called back tax is infantile themselves. As Government you can’t try to secure every dollar bill there is.”
The BARCRO head further argued that Government must recognize that there is a time to give and take, and that some people would have already paid the road tax until the end of the year but would not be reimbursed even though they were required to pay the new tax at the pump.
“No one is talking about refunding the people, who as a result of the change of law, overpaid road taxes. It seems okay that such a person is required to pay two sets of road taxes at the same time. Government has to grow up and understand that they would win some and lose some. I think the new Government should keep quiet about the ones they lose and just carry on with the Government,” the Gibbs-Taitt said.