Thursday 14 November, 2019

Government provides further VAT relief to local manufacturers

The Government of Saint Lucia continues to provide tax relief to the business sector, this time targeting local manufacturers. Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet moved a Motion in the House of Assembly on Tuesday October 29th for an amendment to the Value Added Tax Act to Zero Rate the service of printing.

In introducing the Amendment, the Prime Minister explained: “Educational supplies as defined under the Value Added Tax Act, Cap 15.42 (VAT Act) including newspapers, trade catalogues and advertising matter, magazines and books and patterns and samples with no commercial value, are treated as exempt supplies under the Second Schedule of the Vat Act. When those same items are however produced or printed locally for a third party, the production or printing thereof is treated as a service and subjected to the standard rate of VAT.”

In other words, Prime Minister Chastanet simplified: “We have manufacturers who by virtue of the existing legislation are prejudiced in their own country. The fact is that those items can be imported and have no VAT on them, yet if these items are produced in Saint Lucia they vatable. We truly believe that this was an error because I cannot believe that either Government would want to be prejudiced against any of its local manufacturers.”

The Prime Minister further explained that since the VAT Act exempts the importation of such goods as per Schedule 2 and that similar goods are subject to VAT when produced in Saint Lucia, “this is viewed as rendering the service of printing such as of books, magazines, leaflets and invitations in Saint Lucia more expensive than the cost of importing a similar printing service and can render local suppliers of those services uncompetitive.”

The Prime Minister explained to Members of Parliament that goods, as defined by educational supplies under the Vat Act that are imported, will continue to be exempt from VAT while by zero rating the service of printing, the printing sector will be able to claim the total amount of input tax expended monthly to compete with imports of similar products.

The Amendment was unanimously supported by Members on the Government and the Opposition side.

During the 2017 budget debate, Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet also addressed issues in the manufacturing sector concerning the burden from VAT on imported raw materials used in their production processes.

According to the Prime Minister; “in addition to the reduction in VAT from 15 to 12.5 percent, which went into effect from February 1 this year (2017), government had designed a VAT deferral system to minimize the impact of the VAT obligations faced by manufacturers.”

“This system will eliminate the VAT payments on imports of raw materials and no such payment is required subsequently to the extent that the manufacturer is allowed to claim the full input VAT,” he further explained.

The introduction of this system benefits manufacturers in that the previous challenges of sourcing funds to pay off import VAT in order to clear raw materials has been eliminated. This allows manufacturers to see a positive inflow of cash into the business prior to paying off import duties.

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