Saturday 31 October, 2020

T&T Chamber: Prioritise VAT refunds

As the country awaits the presentation of the national budget on October 7, Government is being urged to place priority on the strengthening of Trinidad and Tobago’s trade and investment climate, with special emphasis on addressing issues with VAT refunds.

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce in its column in the Business Express last Wednesday called for focus to be placed on addressing the unique challenges currently restraining local businesses from reaching their true potential.

Noting that several corporations are owed outstanding refunds for more than two years with some companies owed in excess of TT$20 million, the T&T Chamber said with this cash tied up these businesses are unable to meet many of their financial commitments. The Chamber added that this affects businesses’ ability to attract increased exports.

Noting that assurances were given in the last Mid-Year Budget Review that the debt would be liquidated, the Chamber expressed the hope that priority will be given in the upcoming budget to resolving the issue.

The T&T Chamber previously put forward proposals to alleviate the accumulation of VAT refunds including: (i) not charging VAT on raw materials for manufacturers whose final manufactured products for local sale are zero-rated and also have high export sales; (ii) not charging VAT on expenditure made on capital investments in the non-energy sector and (iii) allowing companies to offset the VAT refunds owed to them with their VAT payments that are due.

Suggestions were also put forward to assist in the ease of doing business, including the introduction of trade facilitation officers to offer on-the-ground assistance to first-time exporters aiming to enter a foreign market and modernisation and amendment of existing legislation geared toward making e-commerce a reality.  

The Chamber has also identified other areas requiring urgent attention including reinforcing and incentivising the entrepreneurial ecosystem through capital investment in start-ups and growing small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), growing the SME stock exchange, and offering incentives to individuals and businesses which have invested in start-up companies.

Encouraging alternative energy usage was also pinpointed as a critical issue for the private sector, especially given Government ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Suggesting that T&T follow the global trend of adopting green technologies, the T&T Chamber proposed the incentivisation of a shift to Green Delivery Vehicles to assist in reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. The Chamber recommended an allowance/incentive be extended to those interested in switching to more environmentally friendly options, making it a viable business alternative for a company. 

Addressing energy efficiency, the Chamber suggested a legislative approach towards promoting the use of alternative energy sources and less energy usage by allowing those who generate electricity through solar devices to sell their excess power back to the grid. 

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