Do you get these huge assessments that are so foreign to you that you believe it must be a mistake and believe they will be corrected automatically? So you ignore them, that is the worst thing you can do.
You think all is well because:
- You closed that business a long time ago and you wrote letters to the tax department
- You were in college those years, so you had no income on Sint Maarten
- The receipts and copies of the declaration are in your possession
- The company was never active
- The company never had any employees
In our tax laws there are not a lot of protection measures for tax payers, other than the judicial system (tax court and civil court). I will elaborate more on that in the next blog. It is important to protect yourself better.
Rule 1, protest within two months.
If you disagree with an assessment, protest it as soon as possible, even if you don’t have proof that you filed or that the assessment was wrong yet, you can make what is called a ‘pro forma protest”, which is formality to stop the clock from ticking. This must all be done before two months after the date of the assessment. I know you sometimes never got the assessment, just the reminder or the summons from the bailiff. If the protest is done after two months, you have lost the right to appeal the assessment in court and the decision the tax department took based on your protest letter. The tax department will process a protest submitted after the two months, but not after five years.
Rule 2, protest within five years.
Unfortunately, if you find out too late that you owe taxes, for example if you were away from the Island for a few years, or maybe it’s your deceased parents assessment and now there is a lien on the home they left you. You now have lost all rights to protest this assessment, which is most probably too high.
Tip: Ask the receiver once a year for a list of outstanding taxes, so you can see what they have in their files, there might be taxes that you don’t know about.
Rule 3, the nine months’ rule.
If nine months after you have submitted your protest letter, you do not receive an answer from the tax Inspector, your protest is automatically rejected. That’s the law, strange but true Hhowever, if you submitted your protest letter on time you have 12 months to appeal the non-decision.
However, if you do get an answer from the tax inspector that you don’t agree with, you have two months to appeal it in tax court.
Lessons to be learned.
If this dazzles you and keeping track of all these dates doesn’t work for you, let your tax consultant do it for you, he has the tools and staff to monitor all your tax documents and their due dates. Your tax advisor can advise what to do next!
Finally, taking your appeal to court, that’s a whole other story and there are some interesting recent changes (July 2016) in tax court procedures and the laws governing that………… Interested? Follow my next blog on tax court in this part of the kingdom.