While no particular action has been held at the committee level yesterday, several members of the House of Representatives are seriously considering exempting canoes from being taxed in order to be involved with a philanthropic organization.
Several members of the House Ways and Means Committee agreed yesterday in the meeting that the intent of Rep. Ivan A. Blanco’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-142, a bill seeking to exempt canoes from being subjected to excise tax, was one that they supported.
According to Emma Perez, 500 Sails board chair and Okeanos Sustainable Sea Transport LTD managing director, having canoes exempted from excise tax was one of the requirements to be involved with the Okeanos Foundation for the Sea, a group that seeks to revive traditional navigation and canoeing to replace fossil-fueled means of seafaring.
With minor technical changes to the language of the bill, Ways and Means chair Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) opted to defer action until the committee obtains the comments of both Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson and Division of Customs director Jose C. Mafnas.
“[The bill] is an excise tax amendment to provide an exemption for traditional canoes that are donated for the purpose of enhancing the cultural and indigenous practices of the indigenous people,” said Demapan, adding that in this case, Okeanos Marianas—a traditional Polynesian canoe donated by the Okeanos Foundation—was subject to an excise tax of about $40,000 to $45,000.
“At this point, the organization is a not-for-profit and the $45,000 tax that is being levied [imposed] on them is very hefty and something that they cannot afford,” he added. “In principle, the members of the committee are in support of this bill however we withheld our final action today to allow the Division of Customs and the Secretary of Finance to submit comments on this proposed legislation.”
If both Customs and Finance fail to respond to the committee’s solicitation of comments within 10 days, the committee would vote for the legislation without their input, Demapan said yesterday.