FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert at a virtual briefing on Friday rejected allegations by Opposition Senator Wade Mark of any improper benefits from tax-breaks in the recent Finance Bill 2020 which enacts measures in the national budget.
Mark had alleged a clean energy firm would questionably get a hefty tax break in getting listed on the TT Stock Exchange, while Imbert as an apartment builder would benefit from a tax break for first-time house buyers.
The senator had said MPC Caribbean Clean Energy Ltd was a German solar/wind energy firm with a facility in Costa Rica, for whom Ansa McAl was a co-investor.
Imbert told the briefing that the energy firm has a share capital of $140 million which puts it outside of the $5 million to $50 million range to be formally listed as a small-to-medium business. He also said it was only first-time buyers such as a young couple that would get a tax break on stamp duty under the act.
“I can’t possibly benefit from it,” Imbert said. “I’m not a first time home-owner.”
Mark, in a reaction, told Newsday that the energy firm at its initial public offering (IPO) on the TT Stock Exchange had been valued at US$5 million or about $35 million which he said qualified it to register as a small and medium business for tax exemptions. A similar IPO had been held on the Jamaican stock market, he said.
Mark said a small-to-medium firm registering on the TT Stock Market pays no corporation tax for five years and after that pays just 15 per cent tax for the following five years.
He stood by his initial claim of Imbert benefiting from tax-breaks for first-time buyers, indirectly, by way of being a builder of an apartment block.
“It was not about him being any first time home-owner. He has got so many houses. Clearly I was not speaking about him.
“I was referring to those citizens who are first time home-owners who will be accessing the exemption from stamp duty (if buying property such as Imbert’s apartments.)”
He said the bill increased the exemption from $1.5 million to $2 million, such that anyone spending $2.75 million to buy an apartment – the price of Imbert’s apartments – would pay stamp duty on only the $750,000. “That would benefit the minister,” Mark said. “He ought to declare his interest.”