A former member of the Salaries Review Commission says the Prime Minister and his Cabinet alone cannot implement a cap on the Tax/Duty Exemption on motor vehicles for Parliamentarians.
During the Budget Debate in the Lower House this week Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he will approach the Cabinet to suggest a cap of $350,000 on tax exemptions for vehicle purchases made by Members of Parliament.
But speaking with Guardian Media yesterday under anonymity, the former member said the President has to be the one to initiate that process.
“The cabinet has no authority to do that, what is supposed to happen is the SRC can only act on a request from her Excellency the President, what the cabinet could do is ask her Excellency to ask the SRC to review something, for example, the transportation benefits, so they can ask the SRC to examine that and prepare a report on that and then that goes through her Excellency to the Parliament.”
Yesterday Guardian Media asked the Office of the President if it had yet received such a request, the answer was no.
But the suggestion of a cap first made by the Opposition Leader then the Prime Minister days after is not a novel idea.
In fact, it is contained in the 98th Report of the Salaries Review Commission which was laid in the Parliament in 2014. However, it isn’t a $350,000 dollar cap as recommended by Dr Keith Rowley. The report suggested a cap of $173,000. That allowed exemptions from Motor Vehicle Tax up to $30,000. VAT exemptions up to $53,000. And Customs Duty exemptions up to $90,000.
And while the recommendations to increase the salaries of Parliamentarians was accepted, the House Committee outrightly objected to the limit on tax exemptions for vehicles.
“So, they were okay with the nice salary increases and everything else the only thing they did not accept was the cap on the transportation arrangement,” the former SRC member told Guardian Media.
The House Committee at that time which rejected the cap was chaired by Dr Roodal Moonilal and its members were Anil Roberts, Vernella Alleyne- Toppin, Nela Khan, Colm Imbert and Nileung Hypolite. The rationale for the rejection as outlined in the 2013/2014 House Committee Report said, “it is unjust to require Parliamentarians to forego entitlements that they currently enjoyed. The Committee, therefore, recommends the outright rejection of the proposal to place limits on the current 10 entitlement of Parliamentarians to Duty/Tax exemptions for their purchase of a motor vehicle for their official use.”
The SRC’s 98th report suggested the cap because it said without it, ‘the result is that it is possible for the holders of certain offices to enjoy exemptions from duty and taxes, and Customs Duty in particular, totalling several hundred thousand dollars on a single vehicle.’