…distances self from planned VAT on exportsWhile declaring that he was speaking on behalf of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and not the Finance Ministry, GRA Commissioner General Godfrey Statia said amid concerns regarding Value Added Tax (VAT) on exports, companies would first have to provide empirical evidence to prove that was true.He noted that if businesses could prove that they were affected, the GRA “will recommend to the Minister of Finance (Winston Jordan) changes to the Schedule and VAT Act to minimise such effect”.He added that this was an ongoing exercise, and was the case for the fishing and forestry industries where after being presented with empirical evidence in 2017, changes were effected to the VAT Schedules, thereby allowing the affected items in the manufacturing process to be exempted.“We are not a political organisation. If you need political advice, you should ask the Minister,” he said while addressing the issue on Monday at his Camp Street office. “All I am asking, is if you are saying that you would be adversely affected, prove it to me, show me the facts.”The Commissioner General was referring to statements made by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on behalf of organisations such as the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA); the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association (GREMA).Statia claimed that the GRA has been in constant discussion with stakeholders about this issue.“We understand the reasons for moving items from exempt to zero rated and vice versa. In the initial phases when we made the changes in 2017, what we were trying to do was to minimise a request for refunds and, therefore, what we tried to do was to move exempt items, move zero-rated items to exempt.”In response to representation made by correspondence of April 9, 2018, he said the Minister advised the GREMA that it should supply the GRA with the empirical data to support its claims of significant losses on costs owing to the change from zero-rated to exempt status by the 2017 amendments to the VAT Act, so that remedial action could be taken.This request was made in light of the previous initiatives taken to exempt the raw materials and other items used in this industry to reduce the burden of VAT. The items that are exempt include the supply of paddy, fertilisers, ploughs, import of raw materials and packaging materials, etc.Additionally, the GRA boss said substantial waivers on duty and VAT on imported items for the rice industry were provided. He said it should be noted that the VAT placed on electricity and water would rarely apply to GREMA members since they enjoy their own power generation and have their own water supply. The data on the losses, he reminded, is yet to be submitted to the GRA.Previously, the Government used zero-rated goods to lower the tax burden on low-income households by zero-rating essential goods. For items with no value added or that were first in the value-added chain, there is no difference to the consumer between exempting and zero-rating the items.In order to ensure that local manufacturers of exempt products that were previously zero-rated whether for export or local supply were not unduly affected, many products exempted were the first in the chain, so they would not have attracted any value-added element, hence no significant input VAT to be reclaimed, eg, lumber and lumber products, poultry, and fish.While Statia argued that the PSC was mixing up the laws and may not have a full understanding of the VAT law, the Private Sector body said Monday that it strongly believed that the GRA was fusing two amendments, neither of which supported the interpretation and advice offered by the Authority to the Minister.The PSC said the GRA was causing the Minister to reverse an undertaking given to the National Assembly in January 2018 that “none of these proposed amendments will negatively affect any individual or business”.It was observed by the PSC that no changes were made to the zero-rated list in respect of exports, but the Minister and the GRA were advising that exports of goods and services listed in the exempt schedule were not zero-rated even if they were listed in the zero-rated schedule.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo was the first to state that serious consideration was being given to having the zero rating of exports for VAT purposes removed. A day later, Minister Jordan strongly denied that any changes have been made, or would be made, that would impact exporters in a negative way.