Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LCC said it will continue to withhold further tax payments to the government, relying on tax credits it reportedly earned in previous years.
“We were advised by our…accountant that we are entitled to tax credits. It’s the same thing like your personal tax wherein if you pay too much you get a refund,” IPI chief executive officer Mark Brown told Saipan Tribune in an interview soon after last week’s meeting of the Commonwealth Casino Commission.
Brown conceded that the CNMI needs money, the Torres administration is doing its most to keep the government afloat, and Finance Secretary David Atalig has a job to do “but our accountants and tax lawyers say we paid too much.”
In a meeting with the CNMI House Ways and means Committee last month, Department of Finance officials led by Ryan Camacho disclosed that IPI has so far remitted only $41,000 in casino gross revenue tax from October 2018 to April 23, 2019.
The amount is a just drop compared to IPI’s CGRT payments of $40.9 million in 2016, $67.7 million in 2017, and $43.6 million in 2018.
Brown said that IPI is trying to make everything work as planned. He said he “gets it” when some people ask, ‘Why does IPI deserve that?’ He pointed out, though, that events in the past two years have worked against IPI’s plans on Saipan.
“We have a half-built building, we are not paying our taxes, we are having all these troubles of getting construction workers,” he said. “…But everyone [should] understand that…we would not be in this situation” if IPI had gotten the Marpi land two years ago, “if we didn’t have all the issues with typhoons, construction workers, H-2Bs, and 700 workers that we had to send home.”
Ultimately, when it comes to tax payments, Brown said the goal is to apply tax credits first. “…Then we will go back to continue paying what’s due,” he added.
Despite the many obstacles, Brown said the majority of IPI shareholders still think that investing in a casino on Saipan is still worth it.
“My boss thinks anybody else would have ran for their lives and left but not us. …He definitely wants to finish [the] Garapan [site] and move forward with his plans. …He can’t leave now [because] he is in too deep.”
“We are still here, finishing the building and we are still getting investors—800 of them at a time—and promoting Saipan in Korea and Australia. …It’s a struggle because we have a lot of people against us but we are still here and we plan to see this through,” he added.