An announcement last night by Prime Minister Mia Mottley that motorists who paid road tax between June 12 and June 30 will receive a partial refund has come like music to the ears of vehicle owners.
Mottley said in an interview broadcast nationally on radio and television, as well as online, that Government would refund 75 per cent of the sum paid once drivers write to the Ministry of Finance proving they had paid the road tax, which was abolished effective July 1 and replaced with a fuel tax of 40 cents per litre on petrol and diesel, and five cents per litre on kerosene.
Even those, like Bernard Boyce, who did not qualify for a refund, were pleased with the decision.
“I’m glad that those people will now get back their money,” Boyce told Barbados TODAY, while throwing his support behind the abolishment of the road tax, even though he acknowledged some drivers may be forced to spend more on petrol.
“I believe the change from [the road] tax is working, but the guys who do a lot of driving, it will affect them mostly,” he said.
Another driver, Kemar Babb, also celebrated news of the refund, although he said it never bothered him that he had to pay the road tax because it was for the greater good.
“The refund is good news to me, but if I didn’t get repaid I won’t have minded at all,” Roach told Barbados TODAY.
“For me it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day it is all about bettering the country. Those little things do come into play. There is a lot of debt that has to be repaid so I see it as steps going forward. Yes, it will disadvantage some persons but it is about the big picture.
“If people have to drive, they will drive regardless. The only thing that will happen is that those people who did not pay road tax in previous years it will catch them. But maybe that was the plan because a lot of people were driving without paying the road tax,” he argued, while advising motorists not to spend any more time than is required on the road.
“If you are going to Speightown Monday and then town on Tuesday you will have to look and see if you can either do all two in one day so there won’t be the back and forth. You just have to manoeuvre to suit.”
Like the other motorists, Bevin Austin said he welcomed a refund, although he felt the decision to abolish the road tax and replace it with the fuel tax would be costly.
“Ms Mottley said that she would give 75 per cent back and I really don’t have a problem with that,” Austin said.
“My feeling is that I would prefer to pay the road tax based on my mileage. I will spend more. Normally $100 dollars would last me seven days but now I find myself spending like $200 a week because I’m a carpenter by trade, I live in St Lucy and most of my work is in St Philip,” he explained.
Mottley’s announcement came after there was an outcry when drivers whose road tax expired mere days before the levy was abolished found upon going to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) for their documents, that they were required to make the payments.
Many were angry because, they said, Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid had appeared to suggest 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.
Even as the outcry continued, Duguid told a news conference last week that all road taxes that were due before July 1 had to be paid, explaining that his previous statement had been misunderstood.
“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 at the briefing, even as he sought to quell the uproar by announcing that provision had been made with BRA for those with outstanding road taxes to pay in installments.
However, Mottley said last night the minister’s comment could easily have been interpreted to mean all drivers needed to do was park their vehicles for a few days until July 1 and they would escape the road tax.
Therefore, she said, a Cabinet decision had been taken to give a refund to those who were made to pay road tax between June 12 when her new Budget took effect, and June 30.
“Write the letter and we will check and see when your time came up at BRA and once that is verified then the Government will give you back 75 per cent of what you paid and the Government will retain 25 per cent as an administrative fee,” the Prime Minister announced.
Meanwhile, the owners of commercial vehicles who paid their road tax will not receive a refund. They will however be exempted from paying their registration fee next year.