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Jan 23, 2019

Income Tax Commissioner’s Refusal to Set-off Belize Bank’s Business Tax Debt Unlawful

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin was scheduled to deliver his decision today in the matter of the Belize Bank Limited versus the Government of Belize. The Bank has been fighting tooth and nail, trying to collect the multi-million-dollar UHS debt from the government. A two-day trial was held in December and after the first adjournment on January eleventh, we were told today that the decision was once again adjourned and a date was not set. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Courtenay Abel heard arguments on a separate, but relevant matter to the UHS debt legal battle. The Belize Bank Limited filed a claim against the Commissioner of Income and Business Tax as the first defendant and the Attorney General of Belize as the second defendant. According to the Bank’s claim, authorization was given to the Commissioner to set-off its business tax in the sum of eight point five million dollars for the first quarter of 2018 against the judgment debt of more than ninety-two million dollars.  Basically, the Bank was telling the Commissioner to deduct the eight point five million dollars of its business tax arrears from the ninety-two million dollars which the Government owes the Bank. The Commissioner refused and in fact, took steps to enforce collection against the Bank. The Belize Bank sought several reliefs and during his oral decision, Justice Abel allowed three. Justice Abel declared that the decision of the Commissioner to refuse to set-off the Bank’s business tax debt against the judgment debt is unreasonable and disproportionate and therefore unlawful. Justice Abel also declared that the decision of the Commissioner not to garnish the Bank’s tax debt from the judgment debt is unlawful and finally, Justice Abel granted an order restraining the Commissioner from seeking to enforce the tax liability against the bank. Attorney for Belize Bank, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay told News Five that “the original award was thirty-six million dollars. The judgment debt has grown to ninety-six million as a result of this pointless fight.” An interest of six percent continues to accrue on the judgment debt.

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