Finance Minister Colm Imbert replies to a question during yesterday’s sitting of the Senate.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday declared that he “may” have potential benefits as a result of two tax stipulations in the 2021 Budget.

He did so while piloting a Finance bill to provide for certain duties, taxes and fiscal measures in the 2021 Budget which begin on January 1.

On a measure to cut corporation tax from 20 per cent to 15 per cent regarding property development with projects completed before 2024, he said, “I may have a potential benefit in this and I declare my interest.”

He repeated this when he dealt with another measure to increase a concession to 30 per cent regarding wear and tear on plant and machinery.

Imbert was spotlighted in recent months as owning—with his wife—property development at 61-65 Picton Street, Newtown, Port-of-Spain. It involves luxury million-dollar apartments which will be sold.

On other budget measures, he said commercial vehicles will be exempted from motor vehicle taxes but private cars of certain engine sizes will still attract the tax. Imbert said this was to stem revenue leakage.

Over $1 billion was lost since there were vehicle tax exemptions in 2016, he pointed out. Some US$300 million in foreign exchange was lost due to purchase of 25,000 vehicles, including 20,000 private ones, he said.

Imbert said he was happy the personal income tax concession allowed over 100,000 people—including cops and public servants—who earn $7,000 and less to get an extra $250 monthly.

Imbert firmly declared Government expects recipients to spend the $3,000 they’d have annually on the local economy. He added this followed the principle of depression-era economist John Keynes, who advocated spending one’s way out of a depression. He warned of challenges in 2021, including commodity prices, energy production and supply chain disruptions.

UNC senator Wade Mark said the $3,000 extra some would get was “crumbs from the master’s table.” He called for Imbert to resign on the issues he’d declared interest in.

Mark said Imbert had a third interest which he didn’t declare. He said another Budget measure allowed first-time homeowners to avoid stamp duty and people buying apartments in Imbert’s building would save on stamp duty. Mark said if he’d formulated law like that, the People’s National Movement would “run me out of town!”

Mark fumed that the PNM was “an agent of big business” and only for “friends, family and financiers.”

He said taxes were being left on private vehicles while commercial vehicles were exempted, adding the UNC wouldn’t support the bill. He was warned by Senate President Christine Kangaloo several times about his decibel level and language when he complained of PNM “tomfoolery, trickery, robbery, tiefing!” —Gail Alexander