Hassink: AUC taxes not written-off, assessment being contested in court

PHILIPSBURG - Finance Minister Martin Hassink made it clear in Parliament Thursday that the much-talked-about writing-off of back taxes for the former owners of the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine is just not the case.
Hassink told Members of Parliament (MPs) he could not give an exact figure or other pointed information about the tax matter due to existing tax laws and the fact that the matter is in Court. What he could say was that the former AUC owners were contesting their tax assessment.
The minister did not give an exact amount of taxes owed. He only said it could be more or less than the NAf. 100 million being spoken about in the community.
The Inspectorate of Taxes, the minister explained, made an assessment which "the client" (meaning the former AUC owners) did not agree with. The inspectorate gave a negative advice to the objection of AUC and that led to the filing of a Court case by the client, a natural progression under the law in such cases.
The case was slated to be heard by the Court in October, but due to some Court error, it will now be dealt with sometime next year. With the case pending, Hassink said it was "not wise" to release more information.
Hassink was in Parliament for yesterday's plenary session at the request of National Alliance MP George Pantophlet and Independent MPs Romain Laville and Patrick Illidge. They wanted clarity on the AUC tax situation.
Questions of MPs to the minister mainly centred on general tax issues and suggestions for bettering the tax system. One issue brought up was the possible use of foreign credit card machines by businesses to avoid local taxes. This is being looked into by the ministry with a possible solution being a point-of-sale system to reduce tax evasion by businesses.
The first agenda point of Thursday's meeting was the possibility of medical scholarships for St. Maarten students and their attendance at AUC School of Medicine, and the involvement of the community.
Education Minister Patricia Lourens-Philips explained that the previous owners had provided two scholarships a year to local students. However, no such agreement has been brokered with DeVry University since the purchase of the university. She also pointed out that the university students are involved in community service.
(The Daily Herald)

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