Colm Imbert MP, Minister of Finance.

The Finance Ministry yesterday confirmed that legal orders have been done for the removal of taxes on laptops and similar items —and the removal was effective from last Friday.

This after consumers were being told by Customs and Excise up to yesterday that no legal order was in place to facilitate the removal of taxes on the devices.

The ministry, however, clarified the situation. Finance Minister Colm Imbert has also said that refunds will be made on VAT or Online Purchase Tax on these items that may have been inadvertently charged by the Customs & Excise Division as a result of a manual entry by an importer or an electronic entry that was already in the ASYCUDA system prior to last Friday, but not yet imported as of that date.

It appears there was some “lagway” between Imbert’s announcement on the issue and word to the relevant agencies on the necessary legal notices.

Last Friday, Imbert promised that VAT and OPT taxes would be removed from laptops, notebook computers and tablet computers. There had been calls for removal of the taxes after

Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly revealed that 65,000 students may not have proper access to online learning because of lack of connectivity or devices.

Although Imbert had announced the removal was effective last Friday, yesterday the T&T Guardian was shown a letter dated September 8 which a local business service received from Customs on the tax removal.

The letter stated that the removal would require a legal notice which would have to go through the Trade Ministry first and after to Customs’ legal department and then the ASYCUDA division before items could be classified without the taxes.

The Customs letter stated the steps have to be completed they hadn’t yet confirmed whether they had received the mandate. As a result, Customs stated it was continuing to impose the current taxes until further notice. Up to then, Customs noted there was no legal notice on Government’s website on the issue.

However, yesterday afternoon Imbert’s ministry issued a media release stressing that the waiver of VAT and OPT on the laptops and the related items is effective from last Friday.

The release said Imbert had noted information in the public domain and wanted to confirm that the required legal orders for the tax removals “have been signed by the Minister of Finance and the Secretary to the Cabinet, respectively, and are effective from Friday September 4, 2020.”