Former finance minister Tuitt wants St. Maarten parliament inquiry into unpaid NAf. 100 million in profit tax

FRIDAY, 16 AUGUST 2013

~ Says Theonomics, Sarahnomics 'devastating' for St. Maarten ~

PHILIPSBURG--Former finance minister Roland Tuitt is calling for Parliament to look into the more than NAf. 100 million in profit tax that was not paid to government when American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine was sold to DeVry Inc. in 2011.

Tuitt did not mention the institution by name when he made the call at a press conference on Thursday, as he said he could release such sensitive information only to Parliament. However, it was obvious that he was referring to the AUC sale.

Referring to the matter as "really painful," Tuitt said the institution in question (the former owner of AUC) had had a tax holiday for 10 years following its sale. He said government was supposed to have received 34.5 per cent of the sale price that amounted to more than NAf. 100 million. The institution was sold for US $235 million.

According to Tuitt, government only received 10 per cent of the profit tax owed. "Why this is so painful is because we are not talking about pennies. We are not talking about NAf. 100 or 1,000. We are talking not even about NAf. one million, we are talking about over NAf. 100 million.

"If this money was collected, which it should have been in accordance with the tax laws of the country, then we wouldn't have any issue with any budget because we would have money for three years to cover the budget deficit created in St. Maarten for the tune of some 30 million each year," said Tuitt.

"It is up to Parliament to call a meeting so that this issue can be investigated, because no government in this world gives away NAf. 100 million. There is none."

Tuitt said he had made efforts to resolve the matter when he found about it while he was Minister. He said he had been working on the issue up to his last day in office.

Tuitt referred to this issue as "Theonomics and Sarahnomics," saying their way of governing was "devastating" to the country and to the people of St. Maarten. "You can see the harm Theonomics and Sarahnomics have caused this country. They have deprived this country of over NAf. 100 million, which, by the way is almost 25 per cent of the budget of St. Maarten.

"Even though it involves let's say sensitive information ... if something does not seem right, then it's prudent to bring it to the authorities who have to take action on it. In this case, it's Parliament. So this info is given to Parliament so Parliament will be able to ask the necessary questions, be it in a closed-door meeting or a public meeting. That's up to Parliament."

Sitting Finance Minister Martin Hassink said on Wednesday that the administration was "busy" working on collecting the profit taxes owed by the former owners of AUC. He also did not refer to the institution by name on the grounds that he was obligated not to release information on individual taxpayers. However, he said the matter "definitely has our attention."

"Wherever the possibilities are to get our fair share [of taxes – Ed.], we make sure that we get it. I can't go into details, but we are absolutely busy with that."

Following the sale of the institution, the new owners had said they would make US $20 million in investments in the university.

"For each taxpayer, we try to make sure that they pay the amount they should pay and that's whoever it is. I have, by law, the obligation that I cannot just give information about individual taxpayers and also not in this case. We do what we can in each case regardless if you're AUC or whomever."

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten