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January 25
09:34 2019
REPORTER: News Staff, Jan. 25th. - 

The Belize Bank may never pay business tax in this country again, almost $34 million in tax revenue a year, following a landmark ruling this week with far reaching repercussions. The case and subsequent ruling, though separate from the unsettled UHS judgement owed to the Bank by the government, may be an even sweeter victory than settling the $96 million UHS debt, as it essentially gives the bank a tax-exempt status as long as GOB refuses to pay the debt, which it has very publicly stated it will never honor.

The Belize Bank received a ruling in its favor on Tuesday against the Commissioner of Income and Business Tax and the Attorney General of Belize declaring that due to the outstanding UHS judgement debt owed to the bank by GOB, the Bank was not obligated to pay some $8.5 million in quarterly business tax, which the Commissioner had moved to collect from the bank.

Last year, the Bank had filed a claim making several requests for relief from the court as the commissioner had refused an authorization from the bank to offset its first quarter 2018 business tax against the $96 million UHS debt owed to the bank, as ruled by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The Income Tax Commissioner refused to settle the taxes by “way of garnishment against the Judgement debt” and took steps toward collecting the tax from the bank.

On Tuesday in Supreme Court, Justice Courtney Abel approved three of the requests sought by the Belize Bank including a declaration that the decisions of the Commissioner refusing to set-off the Bank’s tax liability against the judgement debt is unreasonable, disproportionate and unlawful; a declaration that the Commissioner’s decision not to garnish the tax debt from the judgement debt is unlawful and an order restraining the Commissioner and her agents from seeking to enforce the tax liability against the bank.

Attorney for the Belize Bank, Eamon Courtenay, told the Reporter: “Any reasonable person would understand that if the government owes the Bank $96 million, it must pay the Bank. So said the CCJ! The effect of yesterday’s judgement is that the Bank will not pay taxes until the government pays its debt. In the meantime, interest continues to accrue at 6 percent on the $96 million.”

The Bank had expected another Supreme Court ruling from Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin this week in its effort to collect the UHS award, however, that ruling was adjourned once more with any date being set for ruling to be delivered. If GOB were willing to settle the UHS judgement, however, it is unclear if there is a possibility the debt could be settled by way of a fixed period of tax exemption which could value that of the outstanding judgement.

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