250 private club? Where are they?

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Sherry Persad, President of the Association of Private Members’ Clubs, said on Friday that Finance Minister Colm Imbert was wrong to say that only three of the 250 private members’ clubs in the country had paid statutory deposits.
She said she knew for a fact that more than three members had paid their deposits and urged the minister to get updated information.In delivering his mid-year budget review in Parliament on Friday, Imbert said only three of the estimated 250 private members’ clubs in the country had paid the statutory deposit and the tax on the gaming machines in their establishments is seldom enforced. He said while the number of gaming machines have increased, tax collections have not increased and the government intended to launch a concerted effort to improve tax administration.

Speaking to the Newsday, Persad said she applauded Imbert’s resolve to get the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) to be more proactive but said the private members’ clubs are required to be registered with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the Proceeds of Crime Act. She said while the minister referred to 250 clubs there are only 68 active clubs listed on the FIU website because some clubs are no longer in operation.

“Where are the others out of the 250 that he quoted?” she asked.

General secretary of the Union of Members’ Clubs and Lottery Workers, Cindy Gibbs-Mohammed, was relieved that the Finance Minister had not introduced new taxes on the sector as they had feared.

The body staged a large demonstration outside Parliament prior to Imbert’s address, protesting what they insisted were plans for the imposition of taxes which it said would cause the loss of jobs.

Assistant Secretary of the body, Joshua Johnson, said the union was aware that many of the clubs had paid their taxes but agreed with the minister that the BIR needed to get out there and collect the taxes. “ And in one of our press releases and interviews with media personnel we did allude to that: the different law enforcement agencies need to get out there and do what they are supposed to do.” He said the union was extremely relieved that no new taxes had been imposed and expressed grattitude to the parliamentarians and to the Minister of Labour who, he said, had appealed to the Government earlier in the week not to do anything that would put people on the breadline unnecesarilly.

Gibbs-Mohammed said this showed that their hard work in lobbying the government had been successful because on March 18, Imbert had indicated that high taxes would be imposed on the gaming industry.

She said that statement was what caused the union to react with the demonstration.

“We are happy to know that they have listened to us and further to that let us meet and consult now and get this legislation passed and if they have concerns and issues let us deal with it.”

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