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April 24, 2024

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC -Unicomer St. Vincent Ltd., owners of Courts furniture and appliance store, says it will file an appeal to the London-based Privy Council in relation to an outstanding EC$12 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) tax owed to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government.

“We firmly believe, based on specialist tax and legal advice, that we have fully complied with all tax regulations in Saint Vincent, which is why we are now moving to appeal the judgment to the Privy Council, Saint Vincent’s highest appellate court,” the company said in a statement.

“This is a corporate matter that has no impact on Courts or our staff members. Any step taken will consider our business continuity, the well-being of our staff members, customers and continuous support to the community.”

Unicomer said responsibility and integrity are two of its core values, adding that the company is “committed to continuing our business through this ethics.

Last week, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruled against the company in the case that it brought after the government said in 2015 that it owed the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) EC$12.66 million, inclusive of interest and penalties.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, commenting on the case on radio on Sunday, said the case was heard on January 29 this year and the judgment, which was reserved, was delivered on April 17.

The Comptroller of Inland Revenue audited the accounts of Unicomer St. Vincent Ltd. the period 2007 to 2011.

Subsequent to the review, in 2015, the comptroller gave notice to Unicomer of the intention of the IRD to raise additional assessments to the tax on the basis of this review, in the sum of EC$12.66 million inclusive of interest and penalties.

Unicomer appealed to the Income Tax Appeal Commissioners, which upheld the position of the Comptroller of Inland Revenue.  Unicomer took the matter to the High Court, which ruled in favour of the comptroller and Unicomer appealed to the Court of Appeal.

However, in their April 17 ruling, the three-judge Court of Appeal panel, dismissed Unicomer’s appeal.

Gonsalves said the sum owed by the company “perhaps is now closer to EC$20 million or thereabouts,” adding “if you read this judgment, you will see the importance of this particular judgment in making sure that we are vigilant.

“We have to be in the collection of our taxes,  from all taxpayers, but particularly from 20 per cent of the companies which pay in about 80 per cent of the company taxes, not talking about all taxes, company taxes.”

Gonsalves  noted that a significant amount of taxes come by way of value-added tax (VAT), both at the port and domestic VAT.

“That’d be about EC$270 million this year. Both at the port, one of them is about  EC160 (million dollars) the other one EC140 million,” he said, adding that the court ruling was “an important story” and that it had not appeared in the public domain yet.

“But I want to make it known,” the prime minister said.

“Of course, Unicomer has the right to appeal to the Privy Council and I don’t know whether they’re going to do that or not. They may well do because it’s a significant amount of money. I don’t know,” said Gonsalves, who is also an attorney.

In its statement, Unicomer said that it has been committed to following all laws and policies of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as all other countries in which it operates.

“Unicomer Group has been present in the country since 1987, supporting the communities and remaining committed to economic and social development. We will continue to engage with local authorities to resolve this situation.”

The company said it has shared its commitment with Vincentians through many programmes, including business development, discount support, credit access, layaways, and other social responsibility projects.

“Our agile and broad financial services portfolio is a testament to our dedication in supporting micro-entrepreneurs, the self-employed sector and all of those seeking for solutions whether it is for their personal needs or businesses,” Unicomer said.

“We believe in this market, and we don’t intend to leave Saint Vincent. We will continuously work under the most stringent governance and ethical standards,” it added.

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