~ Submits petition for equality among taxpayers ~
PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Consumer’s Coalition submitted a petition on Wednesday calling on government to cancel the fines police had issued to 21 motorists for non-payment of the 2019 motor vehicle tax, and to allow these motorists to make an arrangement to pay this tax in accordance with an announcement made by Finance Minister Perry Geerlings that taxpayers can make such an arrangement.
The petition was endorsed by more than 60 persons in four hours prior to being submitted. In its petition, the Coalition is also calling on government to refund motorists who have paid fines associated with their vehicles being towed and stored.
“Treat all taxpayers who owe outstanding taxes equally regardless which tax they owe, providing all with a payment plan opportunity of four to 18 months,” the petition read. “Stop harassing and hunting the small man and actively pursue the millions outstanding by companies who owe government taxes and SZV [Social and Health Insurances – Ed.] social premiums.”
The Coalition bases its arguments in part on statements made by Geerlings that the deadline for motor vehicle tax payments would not be extended, as government needed the funds, and less than a week later he announced in a press release an extension to businesses for unpaid taxes.
Geerlings said a day later at the Council of Ministers press briefing that the extension was “also applicable” to “all citizens.” He also said there is no distinction on the type of taxes for which an extension can be granted as long as it is outstanding taxes; the option is there for everyone to make a payment arrangement with the Tax Department.
The Coalition says motor vehicle tax is a tax and should also fall under the extension announced by the minister.
According to the Coalition in its petition, the decision to fine 21 motorists who owed road tax contradicts the offer made by Geerlings “that everybody who owes outstanding taxes (there is no distinction on the type of taxes) can go and arrange a tax payment plan with the Receiver’s Office.”
The Coalition said that by fining the motorists who owe road tax and confiscating their vehicles, motorists are not given the offer, like all other tax payers who owe taxes, to go to the Receiver’s Office and make an arrangement plan to pay their motor vehicle tax.
“Fining motorists who owe road [motor vehicle] tax and confiscating their vehicle with all additional cost is an unequal treatment of these taxpayers,” the petition read. “In particular the small man is being discriminated by this decision of not providing him/her with the offer to pay the road tax within an extension of four months.
“It is in particular the small man who is challenged in prioritising payment of his expenses before paying the road tax and well for the following reasons: he/she has to pay his/her car insurance, he/she has to repair the car before doing the vehicle inspection, he/she has to pay for the vehicle inspection and the vehicle inspection card.
“Adding a NAf. 300 fine, a US $90 towing truck charge and $15 storage fee a day for every day that the car cannot yet be released is an additional burden for the small man, because the rich man has enough funds to pay.
“We therefore petition the Council of Ministers (to)… revisit the decision to not provide road-tax payers a payment extension until June 1, 2019. Cancel the, at least, 21 fines given to motorists who still owe road tax and let them go to the Receiver’s Office to arrange a payment plan to pay before June 1, 2019.”
The Coalition also argues that in 2018 a four-month extension until June 1, 2018, was granted to the small man for payment of motor vehicle tax and the same should also be done this year. It should be noted that the deadline by law to pay this tax was February 28.
The Coalition said government had based its decision in 2018 on the fact that many in the community were still facing serious hardships after the 2017 hurricanes and choices had to be made such as fixing one’s home, awaiting settlements from insurance companies and awaiting parts or repairs for their vehicles. The extension was granted as a form of relief to the community which was still suffering from the effects of the hurricanes.
The petition was signed by Coalition representatives Claire Elshot-Aventurin and Raymond Jessurun and endorsed by more than 60 persons within four hours.