Nothing improper in Jagdeo's announcement of tax-free bonus to disciplined forces
-Information liaison
Stabroek News
January 4, 2004

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Questions have been raised about the propriety of President Bharrat Jagdeo's recent announcement that members of the disciplined forces were to receive two weeks' taxfree salary as bonuses for the holidays.

But Information Liaison to the President Robert Persaud said that Jagdeo merely announced the government's intention to give the taxfree incentive and everything was done through the proper mechanism, adding that the Minister of Finance was empowered to effect the taxfree incentive.

Jagdeo had made the announcement to the members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) on December 18 during the annual Christmas celebrations held at Camp Stephenson.

According to Persaud, it was "ridiculous" for anyone to say that the President did not have the power to make such an announcement.

At the time of the announcement, he said, instructions had already been given for the payout to be made before the end of the year. Those benefiting from the payout, other than the members of the GDF, were members of the Guyana Prison Service, the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Fire Service.

The Fiscal Enactments Act (FEA) was passed in August and it provisions took effect from September 1. It repeals section 105 of the Income Tax Act, abolishing the discretionary powers of the president in the granting of remissions.

That section of the Income Tax Act had empowered the president to "remit wholly or in part the tax payable by any person in respect to any year of assessment, if he is satisfied that it will be just and equitable to do so".

The FEA has also inserted a new section 6 (1C) into the Financial Administration and Audit Act (FA&AA) and under this section, the discretion that the president once enjoyed has been replaced by a narrow, humanitarian provision allowing remission in cases that meet specified criteria, including the effects of natural disasters, disability, mental incapacity or death, or if the taxpayer has been rendered homeless or destitute. The new section states that the Minister of Finance may make regulations or other subsidiary legislation and under the procedures and conditions specified therein, release the taxpayer, in whole or in part, from the liability to pay taxes otherwise due.

Stabroek News has learnt that the incentive has been paid to the members of the disciplined forces.