Speaking in parliament on Monday, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne gave notice to telecommunication providers Digicel and Flow on that his government will no longer honour tax concession agreements signed by the former United Progressive Party (UPP) administration.
Browne, who is also minister for finance, said that under the agreements, the two telecoms providers were exempt from the payment of taxes.
The prime minister told parliament during a debate on the Tax Administration and Procedure Bill 2018 that he foresees a legal battle developing over the issue but insisted that the companies must pay.
“If they want to go court let them go to court. For example, we have two telecommunication companies that would have entered agreements with the former administration that resulted in the exemption in the payment of taxes for a number of years,” Browne said.
“Since we have been in government for the last four years we have not collected any taxes from them and if we did it would have been negligible,” he noted.
“And I am saying that those usurious arrangements must come to an end,” the prime minister stated.
The Bill is designed to help improve the collection of existing taxes through modernization and enforcement and Browne has asked
He asked minister of public utilities, civil aviation and transportation, Sir Robin Yearwood, to meet with the two companies “to let them know we not honouring those agreements. Bring them to an end… we all know they were usurious.”
The PM said he is not seeking retroactive payments but, “They must pay their taxes. So they must make extortionate profits and repatriate those profits and leave the country broke?”
“We call on Digicel and Flow to pay their taxes and if they don’t want to pay they can leave and I am absolutely serious,” the prime minister added.