Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 12th 2016 Contents A21
Tuesday, April 12, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
In his budget review speech, Finance
Minister Colm Imbert stated his inten-
tion to impose a seven per cent tax on
online purchases made from online
retailers. The tax would take effect from
Later, he said that the tax would apply
only to items above a "certain value";
that value is still being worked out. He
said that while he was using the New
Zealand model, he cannot use the New
Zealand threshold since it was too high.
So, out of curiosity as to what this
threshold was, I spent a few hours
exploring the New Zealand Customs
Service website (www.customs.govt.nz)
and this is what I found.
Firstly, New Zealand has no such thing
as a special tax on online shopping. It
has duty and GST (Goods and Services
Tax), their equivalent to our VAT. I
quote from the website. "When buying
overseas goods online, be aware that tax
and duty may be charged on top of the
purchase price once the goods arrive."
And this. "With the rise of Internet
shopping more and more New Zealan-
ders are importing goods from overseas
using postal and international courier
services. Whether the goods are a pair
of sunglasses from America or a carton
of cigarettes from France; a cellphone
from Hong Kong or a bolt of cloth from
Scotland---all will be liable for Customs
duties and charges when they arrive."
As any online shopper in T&T can
attest, we pay duty (20 per cent on
many common items) and VAT on
almost everything we buy. It s much
nicer in New Zealand. They pay 15 per
cent GST on almost all items. However,
to give a sampling, they pay no duty on
televisions, hand tools, motor vehicle
parts, watches, musical instruments and
vitamins; five per cent duty on toys,
perfume and precious/semi-precious
jewelry; 10 per cent duty on footwear,
men s wear and women s wear. Oh, to
live in a developed country!
Secondly, there is a "threshold" (below
which you do not pay charges) in New
Zealand but it s not on the value of the
item. It s on the customs charges. The
amount is NZ$60, about TT$270. If the
duties and GST payable on a shipment
are less than NZ$60, you pay nothing.
From the website: "If the amount to be
paid to Customs is under $60, this will
be waived, but if it s $60 or more, you ll
have to pay any duty and GST plus an
Import Entry Transaction Fee and MPI
(Ministry for Primary Industries) levy."
To give an example, you pay no
charges for a NZ$300 item that attracts
GST only (of $45) since this is less than
$60. However, if a $300 item attracts 10
per cent duty, your duty will be $30 and
GST (on $330) will amount to $49.50.
The total comes to $79.50.
Since this is more than $60, you will
have to pay that plus the fee and levy
mentioned. So it s not about the value
of the item but, rather, on the customs
Since the minister thinks that the New
Zealand threshold of TT$270 is too high
for us, I suggest he lowers it to TT$200.
In other words, if the duties and VAT
payable amount to less than TT$200, we
pay nothing. What a wonderful world
that would be. Hey, even a TT$100
threshold would be welcomed.
I am sure Trinis would be delighted if
the minister were to implement the New
Zealand model for online shopping. We
would pay much less on our online pur-
chases than we do at present.
TRINIS WOULD LOVE
THE NEW ZEALAND MODEL
Members of the
CNC3 news team
paint the walls of the
St Matthias Anglican
Church along the
Eastern Main Road,
Laventille, as a
gesture of goodwill
over the weekend. In
photo from left,
Robert Dumas, Golda
Lee Bruce (hidden),
Khamal Georges and
I have been listening to the public com-
ments in the media and I don't get the sense
that Trinbagonians understand that our coun-
try's economic health is due to global market
Spending less, saving more and reducing
wastage might have provided a softer land-
ing, no doubt, but we still would have had to
come down to earth.
It doesn't appear that Trinbagonians un-
derstand Angola has gone to the IMF, Nigeria
is in talks with the IMF, Venezuela is running
triple digit inflation, Russia is looking to sell
off state assets, Saudi and the Emirates have
reduced or eliminated their fuel subsidies. All
oil-based economies are under financial
Trinbagonians don't understand that the
Petrotrin, Pointe-a-Pierre, refinery is currently
maxed out, all plants running flat out. The key
it seems is to keep revenue as high as possi-
ble and ride out the two years of projected
This apparent ignorance shouldn't surprise
me; the last time I entered this country the
Immigration Officer was very surprised (on
asking my occupation) to learn that Trinidad
has an oil refinery, wow!
Trinbagonians seem not to have a world
view. Maybe everyone is focused on watching
the movie channels and Netflix. BBC, CNN
and RT are of no value to them.
I have stopped all Internet purchases
thereby doing my part to conserve foreign ex-
Others have not, they are consuming for-
eign exchange without a pause for thought.
The Government as well seems not to
have an effective PR machine. In spite of hav-
ing a communications ministry, the dissemi-
nation of critical information is only done
once---no reinforcement, no further effort.
This may be due to cost, but despite the
cost, reinforcement is required until the popu-
lation can make the connection.
I am sure there are more structural adjust-
ments to come and the population must be
prepared to adjust accordingly. The Govern-
ment needs to do more to ensure the popula-
tion is mentally prepared to make the
Message of adjustment not sinking in
Senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies
Dr Roger Hosein continuously calls for the devalua-
tion of the TT dollar. I would like to point out to Dr
Hosein that devaluation is a slippery slope from
which you can never recover. What you are in fact
doing by devaluing is putting a burden on the entire
population for the poor governance, corruption, mis-
management of a few.
The finance minister in an attempt last Friday to
show how nice he was in not caving to a massive de-
valuation, used Venezuela as an example, thus mak-
ing my point. Clueless "politicians" have turned
Venezuela from the wealthiest country in South
America into an economic basket case. I am afraid we
are heading in that direction.
May I respectfully suggest to Dr Hosein, and I think
he knows this more than I do, that there are many
things a responsible government can do without hav-
ing to resort to devaluation and increased taxes. In
fact, they can take a look at the new Macri Govern-
ment in Argentina.
By way of example, State Enterprises: get rid we
cannot afford them. Bloated Civil Service: reduce
them; we are not getting value for money. Ministries:
we have too many; we cannot afford them.
Macri did most of this in under six months, and he
has put his country back on track to prosperity. The
Industrial Court: the country cannot afford their un-
reasonable awards. Together with the unions our pro-
ductivity is in the tank. They are taking us back to the
There are many other examples Dr Hosein, but as I
have said before, you are more aware of them than I
am. The communist-socialist ways have failed miser-
ably and have no business in the daily rhetoric we are
being fed. The Government of the day must have the
courage to do what is right for all the people of T&T.
No coming back
I would first like to congratulate the Minister of Fi-
nance on the much-needed removal of the fuel sub-
sidy. It is painfully obvious that there are too many
vehicles on the roads, and if the removal of this sub-
sidy helps with the traffic congestion, so be it.
The problem I have with the mid-term review is
the seven per cent tax on online purchases. I recently
bought a camera system on amazon.com. The online
cost was US$375. With taxes and shipping to
Trinidad, it came up to TT$2,800. Yes, I paid taxes,
because the customs officer said it must be a total
system with monitor as well. This was bought prior
to the 2015-2016 budget.
What I want the minister to know is this exact
same brand (but assembled in Latin America) was
selling for TT$6,500 at a membership club with
branches all over T&T. This exact camera system,
same specifications, was selling for more than twice
what it cost me to reach my home. In addition, I didn't
have look for a trolley, I didn't have to line up in a long
line, and I didn't have to drive my vehicle thus adding
to traffic congestion to this membership club. It was
delivered to my home by my courier service.
What I would like to know, is why tax me, the
small man, when I am only trying to survive, when
this club is making a killing? And on top of that, I pay
a membership fee also. This tax as I view it, is de-
signed to punish the consumer. It's as though the
minister is telling me, "You can't use your money as
you want, use it as I want."
I hope good sense would prevail, and the minister
will review this measure, because I for one would like
to get good value for my small money.
All I want is value
for my money
Links Archive April 11th 2016 April 13th 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page