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Unicomer St. Vincent Ltd., owners of Courts furniture and appliance store, on Monday said it will appeal to the London-based Privy Council the judgement of the Court of Appeal in relation to EC$12 million in taxes that the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says the company owes.

On April 17, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, in its appellate jurisdiction, ruled against the company in the case that it brought after the government said in 2015 that it owed the Inland Revenue Department EC$12.66 million, inclusive of interest and penalties. 

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, commenting on the case on radio on Sunday, said the case was heard on Jan. 29 and the judgment, which was reserved, was delivered on April 17. 

The Comptroller of Inland Revenue audited the accounts of Unicomer St. Vincent Ltd. the period 2007 to 2011. 

Subsequent to the review, in 2015, the comptroller gave notice to Unicomer of the intention of the Inland Revenue Department to raise additional assessments to the tax on the basis of this review, in the sum of $12.66 million inclusive of interest and penalties. 

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Unicomer appealed to the Income Tax Appeal Commissioners, which upheld the position of the Comptroller of Inland Revenue. 

Unicomer went to the High Court, which ruled in favour of the comptroller and Unicomer appealed to the Court of Appeal. 

However, in their April 17 ruling, the three-judge Court of Appeal panel, dismissed Unicomer’s appeal.

Gonsalves said the sum owed by the company “perhaps is now closer to $20 million or thereabouts.

“If you read this judgment, you will see the importance of this particular judgment in making sure that we are vigilant,” he said of the ruling.

“We have to be in the collection of our taxes,  from all taxpayers, but particularly from 20% of the companies which pay in about 80% of the company taxes, not talking about all taxes, company taxes,” the prime minister said. 

He noted that a significant amount of taxes come by way of value-added tax (VAT), both at the port and domestic VAT. 

“That’d be about $270 million this year. Both at the port, one of them is about 160 (million dollars) the other one 140 million.”

He said the court ruling was “an important story”, adding that it had not appeared in the public domain yet.

“But I want to make it known,” the prime minister said.

“Of course, Unicomer has the right to appeal to the Privy Council and I don’t know whether they’re going to do that or not. They may well do because it’s a significant amount of money. I don’t know,” Gonsalves said.  

However, in a statement on Monday, Unicomer said that it has been committed to following all laws and policies of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as all other countries in which it operates. 

“We firmly believe, based on specialist tax and legal advice, that we have fully complied with all tax regulations in Saint Vincent, which is why we are now moving to appeal the judgment to the Privy Council, Saint Vincent’s highest appellate court,” the company said.

“This is a corporate matter that has no impact on Courts or our staff members. Any step taken will consider our business continuity, the well-being of our staff members, customers and continuous support to the community.”

Unicomer said responsibility and integrity are two of its core values, adding that the company is “committed to continuing our business through this ethics. 

“Unicomer Group has been present in the country since 1987, supporting the communities and remaining committed to economic and social development. We will continue to engage with local authorities to resolve this situation,” the press release said. 

The company said it has shared its commitment with Vincentians through many programmes, including business development, discount support, credit access, layaways, and other social responsibility projects. 

“Our agile and broad financial services portfolio is a testament to our dedication in supporting micro-entrepreneurs, the self-employed sector and all of those seeking for solutions whether it is for their personal needs or businesses,” Unicomer said.

“We believe in this market, and we don’t intend to leave Saint Vincent. We will continuously work under the most stringent governance and ethical standards.” 

One reply on “Courts SVG appeals tax case to Privy Council ”

  1. Alban kenvil Horne says:

    How can the government is so keen on collecting monies from companies that the court ruled in favor of the government when the said government is not paying citizens that the court ruled in favor of receiving monies owes to them by that said government ..

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