Thursday, April 13, 2006

BVI Government investigates stamp duty avoidance

Recently the BVI Public Accounts Committee laid a report containing serious allegations regarding the payment of stamp duties on a number of properties bought and sold throughout the BVI territory. This report followed the investigation that was arisen because there appeared to be a disparity in the valuation of property to avoid paying the taxes.

It was pointed out by the Acting Chief Minister and Minister for Finance in the British Virgin Islands Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton, that at the moment of its election the Government pledged to be transparent and open to public scrutiny in all its business. He said also that justice should always be blind and fair for this Government. The BVI Government representative reminded that the Government works hard to ensure that everybody on the British Virgin Islands have full respect and observe the laws of this Territory.

The Acting Chief Minister Ronnie W. Skelton made an inquiry to the British Virgin Islands Attorney General to begin a full investigation concerning the allegations made in the Public Accounts Committee’s Report, and to deal with the offences that have been done, if any. Currently full investigation has been initiated by the BVI Government into the allegations of issuing stamp duty, and the results seem to appear very soon. As Minister for Finance in the BVI Mr.Skelton is a holder of the portfolio for the Inland Revenue Department, which is responsible for collecting stamp duties. He assured that the investigation will move forward swiftly and comprehensively, and full bulk of information will be provided to the public.

Here are some facts about Stamp Duty in the British Virgin Islands. For the purpose of stamp duty collection, properties transferred in the BVI Territory are treated according to the Conveyance and Law of Property Act, Cap 220; the Non-Belongers Land Holding Act, Cap 122; and the Stamp Duties Act, Cap 212. Stamp duty is charged as a percentage of the price paid for the property or its market value, and this amount, in its turn, is assessed by the Financial Secretary. Also, stamp duty is due and payable on all property transferred between vendor and purchaser in the British Virgin Islands, except for that transferred to or from the Crown. Other cases should be specifically defined by the Financial Secretary of the BVI, in accordance with the Conveyance of the Property Act. 4 percent of stamp duties are payable by belongers of the BVI Territory, and 12 percent – by non-belongers.

Some words about the Public Accounts Committee: it is a subcommittee of legislators chaired by Opposition Leader Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal. Other members of Public Accounts Committee are Rep. Julian Fraser, Rep. Andrew Fahie, Rep. Delores Christopher and at-large Rep. Elmore Stoutt, who replaced Eileene Parsons after her appointment on the post of Minister for Natural Resources and Labour.

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