Belize International Services Limited (BISL) lost control of the International Merchant Marine Registry (IMMARBE) and International Business Companies Registries in June when the Government moved to take them. At that time, GOB charged that the company owed 22 years of taxes adding up to $30 million dollars. BISL charged that they in fact only owed up to six years, from 2007, and that GOB was unlawfully trying to collect taxes that successive administrations had agreed not to collect under the 1993 Master Agreement. The matter has landed in court and on Wednesday Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay told us about the case, which was heard on Monday.
Eamon Courtenay – Attorney for BISL:
That has to do with a tax case; the government has assessed Belize International Services Limited to thirty million dollars in tax, and it is clearly an unlawful and arbitrary assessment and we have challenged it. What the income and business tax act says is that if the commissioner assesses you to tax, in this case Belize International Services Limited, and you are assessed to thirty million and you want to dispute it, you have to pay the thirty million before you can dispute it, in other words, you have to pay to play and we are saying that is unconstitutional because the effect of that is to bar a party who does not have thirty million dollars or someone who doesn’t have ten thousand dollars. You cannot then dispute an assessment and you are obliged to pay. Under the income and business tax, once an assessment is raised by the commissioner, the commissioner is obliged to collect it and therefore, you have a situation where you can’t pay to have your matter challenged but at the same time he is obliged to collect it from you and the income and business tax has very coercive powers that are available to the commissioner to deploy against Belize International Services. They have taken an objection to the matter and what has happened is that the judge has said, listen, give and an undertaking or which they offered and the court accepted the undertaking, that they would not do anything and we are proudly going to have the issue relevant to their objection and the injunction dealt with on the same date, so that one is put off for a while.
The matter has been postponed and there is no indication of whether a challenge to the nationalizations of the registries will be filed.