The tax refund money that is set aside in the tax rebate trust account was temporarily used to fund the CNMI government’s expenses during the recovery from Super Typhoon Yutu, causing the delay in the issuance of tax refunds this fiscal year 2019.
Usually distributed by the end of May or early July, the issuance of tax refunds continues to be delayed, with Finance Secretary David Atalig saying yesterday that the money allotted for this in the rebate trust account was used after Gov. Ralph DLG Torres declared a CNMI emergency in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu in October 2018.
The rebate trust account was created in the late 1990s.
“…With the governor’s emergency declaration for the response and recovery of Super Typhoon Yutu, all monies were used to get us through. Unfortunately, we were not reimbursed quickly as anticipated; therefore, I couldn’t replenish it to the levels needed for the full refund,” Atalig told Saipan Tribune.
The local law that created the rebate account states nothing about allowing the use of the money for emergency purposes. Atalig concedes that the tax rebate account was created for that purpose—to pay for the tax refunds—but he reiterated the emergency declaration for the use of the funds in the account.
“Again, because of the emergency declaration, the monies were utilized for the disaster,” he said.
Atalig assured that he and his office are working with the federal Public Assistance Office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get reimbursements and pay out the tax refunds as soon as possible.
“I continually seek the public’s patience as we do our best to move forward and recover from the disaster economically,” he said.
Torres shared a similar message in a previous statement to the Saipan Tribune. He noted that the tax refunds hinge on the federal reimbursements since the money was “used for Yutu recovery.”
“We are hoping that once we get [federal agency] reimbursements, then we will give out the tax refunds,” he had said.