Opposition renews call for meeting on FATCA
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar defended Opposition’s request for a Joint Select Committee (JSC) on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) legislation, saying Government had in fact initially agreed to this.
Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar said Opposition is willing to meet to address the present impasse on the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill 2016, adding that they remain committed to passing ‘good law’.
She cited statements made by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on September 12, 2016 that he agreed to “give the process to a JSC as requested and make sure it is done properly, rather than rushing it through”, and said this promise was not upheld.
She added that there has not been enough information provided on the ramifications of the Bill and that the amendments made by government have introduced further complications.
“Since the introduction of this Bill and the concerns raised by the Opposition, the Government has on no less than three occasions proposed amendments to the Bill.”
“These amendments have been so far reaching that even the title of the Bill has now been changed and the Government has now tabled further amendments that are proposed to be presented on January 6, 2017. The Government has done all of this without any consultation with the Opposition.”
“Whatever amendments thus made, they keep making more and more amendments, and those amendments further complicate the matter.”
She also denied that the Bill is the same as that drafted by the former People’s Partnership government.
“There have been mutterings, ‘the Bill is the same Bill the (People’s) Partnership had drafted’. Nothing is further from the truth; that is factually incorrect. No Bill was ever approved by the (People’s) Partnership when in Government,” she said.
Defending her decision for a JSC, she said the purpose of the committee would be to provide a wider range of consultation and powers in order to review the Bill, adding that banks only make up a small percentage of those who will be affected by the legislation.
“The legislation by its very terms seeks to override current legislative safeguards enacted and existing in our jurisdiction. Without a Section 13 override its implementation would breach the right to respect for private and family life guaranteed under our Constitution.”
She advised following the examples set by other CARICOM countries with regard to adaptation of the legislation and questioned why the Bill being presented to Trinidad and Tobago differs so widely to that of other Caribbean countries.
She also suggested communicating with the new United States government on new developments as she says steps have already been taken by members of the Republican majority congress to repeal FATCA.
Imbert announced last year in Parliament that the deadline for approving the Bill has been extended to September 2017.
Debate on the Bill is expected to continue on Friday in Parliament.
See also: UNC still wants JSC on FATCA