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Prime Minister has change of heart in abolition of ‘Deeds of Gift’

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has had a change of heart in relation to the abolition of “Deeds of Gift”, which he announced during the Budget address on Monday, January 24.{{more}}

However, there will be changes in the way the system operates.

Dr. Ralph Gonsalves had announced that grandparents, parents and children, brothers and sisters and spouses, will no longer be able issue deeds of conveyance or transfer properties free of stamp duties.

Gonsalves had explained that he was removing the exemption, which had been in place for the last 20 years, because it was being used by unscrupulous persons and lawyers to evade the tax, as evidenced by the large number of deeds of gift relative to total deeds of transfer which are registered each year.

However, last Thursday evening, during the debate on the Appropriation Bill, Gonsalves said he had had a change of heart, after being approached on the issue by members of the legal fraternity.

“They have said to me, that they are prepared to cooperate fully, and they have all told me, and I had a view, of the four or five lawyers whom they claimed are the major culprits in abusing the system,” the Prime Minister said.

He also stated that the lawyers conceded that the abuse takes place largely between siblings.

Going forward, the Prime Ministers said, the exemptions will remain for transactions between spouses and from parents to children.

The exemptions, however, have been removed from transactions between siblings.

Additionally, the Registrar of the High Court will now be required to certify that the two persons are married or that the children are indeed the children of the parents.

Previously, the relationship between the parties was certified by the lawyer doing the transaction.

The Prime Minister also said a limitation has now been put on the availability of the exemption in respect of particular parcels of land, so that they can only be conveyed by a deed of gift once every three years.

“So if a father gives to a son, that son cannot now give to his own son until the expiration of three years, because there are so many abuses which take place,” he said.

He said the lawyers with whom he spoke have agreed that he should take a stand on the persons who have been delinquent and have broken the law, and have suggested that they be given a three-month period to allow them to pay the stamp duty.

“And after that three months, we would make sure that the law would take its course in relation to those who have been delinquent,” the prime minister said.

He said some lawyers had also requested a moratorium on existing arrangements for genuine cases involving siblings, a request he was not sure he would grant.

“I have to think more about that, because that is the category where we have had the real problems and I don’t know whether we should give a moratorium there.”

Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown St. Claire Leacock has however cautioned the Prime Minister about yielding to the calls of interest groups, rather than elected representatives.

Addressing the House on Friday, January 28, Leacock said, “In the course of the debate on the Appropriation Bill, the Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines presented a strong argument for rethinking the stamp duty provision. You were prepared to go out on the streets and have x lawyers present an argument to you and to persuade you…. You see how easy it is to yield, to an interest group, albeit a very important one…. But we here, the representatives of 30,000 people, could not have attracted your attention.”

“You got to watch that kind of thing. You can’t be so selective. We here represent real constituencies and people!” he exclaimed.