The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has requested that Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine provide a list of the businesses that owe taxes to the entity after it was announced last week that over 140 city businesses owe City Hall taxes.
On Tuesday, the GCCI encouraged the Mayor to release the names of those who owe outstanding taxes while also expressing that the body is extremely disappointed by the “public and broad brush attack on the integrity of the entire business sector” by the Mayor.
In fact, the GCCI said it looks forward to being briefed on M&CC’s plan for the city as well as its financial position.
On Friday last, Mayor Narine called a press conference where he complained that over 140 city business proprietors have failed to pay taxes which results in the build-up of garbage in Georgetown.
However, the GCCI, which represents businesses in the city and on the outskirts of the country, said that the remarks shared by Narine were rather “displeasing”.
“The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) notes the recent public comments of His Worship, The Mayor Ubraj Narine, which it finds displeasing to the intended spirit of a recent meeting convened with the new Mayor at which the Chamber extended an olive branch to discuss issues, not limited to but including those, which may be hindering the City Council’s collection of taxes,” the body stated.
Further, GCCI used the opportunity to announce its willingness to work along with the Mayor in the interest of the business community and the maintenance of well-kept environs.
According to the Chamber, all of its members are mandated to adhere to its code of conduct, which includes respect and adherence to all legislative framework, inclusive of tax payments.
“The GCCI has always stood on the side of the rule of law and will continue to encourage all businesses in Georgetown, both members and non-members of the GCCI, to be responsible in their civic duty of paying taxes,” the Private Sector body assured.
It further stressed the importance of businesses, noting that they create employment and economic activities to benefit everyone.
The Chamber added that it is of the view that partnerships between businesses and regulatory bodies are vital to the success of the country as it allows both sides to express issues and concerns in an environment where a solution can be crafted collaboratively.
In an interview with Guyana Times, President of the GCCI, Nicholas Boyer said he is cognisant of the fact that some businesses in the city may run away from paying their taxes, however, he believes that direct appeals should be made to those establishments, rather than label every organisation with the same title.
“Before you got to that stage of just calling out high-end businesses and so those comments may start to create a more contentious atmosphere…we understand why he is doing it because he may feel like these businesses have not been paying taxes over such and such a period so maybe he feels frustration,” Boyer explained.
He added that the Chamber could have played the part of a mediator between those errant businesses and City Hall and seized the opportunity to encourage businesses to pay up their dues to M&CC.
The Mayor had complained on Friday last that the overflow of garbage in the city was as a result of damages to the tyres of the lone tractor owned by the City Council.
A replacement of the tyres is difficult to obtain locally, he said, which saw the garbage bins throughout Georgetown being left unattended for the past three days. Further, it is expensive to buy new tractors, the Mayor noted.
The Mayor then lambasted some 144 “high-end businesses” in Georgetown which have failed to pay their taxes and who owes City Hall billions.
According to Narine, City Hall is willing to procure two additional tractors, however, this is difficult since the finances are unavailable.
The Mayor went on to urge those businesses to pay up monies owed, which will make the work of City Hall less strenuous since according to Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentor, the monies for the tractor cannot be obtained from the Communities Ministry.
Even as City Hall has complained against errant taxpayers, it was revealed last October during a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) that the agency has been awaiting payments from M&CC for rates and taxes dating back to 2016, while there has also been an examination of pension payments to a broker insurance company that has not been paid for the past 19 months.
Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Ron Simbhu told the Commission that City Hall is guilty of outstanding taxes, which have been owed for 2016, 2017 and 2018.
While they were unable to divulge the amount as part of its agreements with the client, Simbhu positively stated that these payments were not made.
Instances of outstanding payments continued throughout the hearing as the Deputy Managing Director of Insurance Brokers Guyana Limited, Ewart Adams, was called to the stand to testify.
“The last payment of $776,523 was in February of 2017,” Adams said.
It is estimated that over $14.5 million is unpaid for the pension plan, with an additional $9,566,304 for the fire and motor insurance payments.