Tue | Mar 2, 2021

Tax relief for computer donors

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2020 | 12:20 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Education Minister Fayval Williams (second left) says thanks for the donation of $10 million from the Joan Duncan Foundation towards the Government’s One Laptop or Tablet Per Child initiative after Tuesdays’ presentation of a symbolic cheque at the com
Education Minister Fayval Williams (second left) says thanks for the donation of $10 million from the Joan Duncan Foundation towards the Government’s One Laptop or Tablet Per Child initiative after Tuesdays’ presentation of a symbolic cheque at the company’s New Kingston office. Also sharing in the presentation (from left) are Greta Bogue, interim CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica; chairman of the Joan Duncan Foundation, Patricia Sutherland; and Gifford Rankine, general manager of digital services at JMMB.

Disgruntled donors and cash-starved parents angered by hefty taxes on computers may now benefit from relief on duties that have hobbled access to online learning for children amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered schools since March.

Jermaine and Jennifer McLoggan shipped three tablets from Canada that arrived in Jamaica on October 13. Though the tablets are here, the receiver was unable to collect all the devices because of financial constraints.

“After this individual spent over five hours in this place, to my surprise, Customs wanted to charge $47,867 to clear these items,” said Jennifer.

Unemployed since the coronavirus pandemic, Jennifer said that only one of the three tablets was picked up as that’s what they could afford given that Jermaine, who is ill, is also out of a job.

She said that if the clearance costs were more affordable, the children would only be two weeks behind. The lag time is now approaching one month.

Similarly, Cindy Ferguson remains heavy-hearted by her eight-year-old daughter constantly asking when she will get her hands on her electronic device, but that relief appears to be some way off as Ferguson said she is unable to provide the $46,000 required by the courier to get the computer donated by a friend.

DISTRESSED MOTHER

Ferguson shared that she has been living with an injury that requires medical care and has limited funds.

“This is what we go through. We are getting help, and they are making it hard for us,” she said, sobbing.

”I can’t even find food. It is sabotage and this is unfair.”

Norma Williams, a citizen of the United Kingdom, said that she sent a computer for Ferguson’s daughter having known her financial challenges from meeting her once in Jamaica. Ferguson said that the tedium and expense associated with clearance charges will discourage good Samaritans from making donations and is appealing for the Government to do more to make devices more accessible.

While private sector groups have clamoured for a freeze on duties, the Government has argued that targeted assistance was preferred to a withdrawal of taxes which would favour the well off.

The One Laptop or Tablet Per Child initiative of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and the National Education Trust (NET), launched on October 29, allows the waiver of a percentage of the duties on computers once donors undertake the necessary steps.

Donors are required to make the request to send the items through the school the student attends to verify the beneficiary and prevent duplication. After the waiver is applied to sent items, receivers will need to pay an environmental levy, the special consumption tax, and 50 per cent of the customs administration fee.

Director of donor and partnership management of NET, Latoya Harris, is urging parents to reach out to the agency even if contributions have arrived before its initiative launch last Thursday.

MORE NEEDED FROM GOV’T

Despite the initiative, many donors and parents are still perplexed that the waiver does not go the full way.

Harris explained that the waiver applies only to customs duties and not fees being charged by private couriers.

Larry Samuels, a Jamaican living in Florida, believes the Government needs to do more.

He is planning to assist 17-year-old Shanique McKenzie, a student from Bellas Gate, St Catherine, who bagged eight ones and a two in this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.

“I’m trying to send her a computer ... . When kids do good, we have to support them and show them that you are by their side. I just want to commend her for doing a good job ... especially under her conditions,” he said.

McKenzie, who was featured in The Gleaner in September, excelled in CSEC despite losing her sister, who was her mentor and study partner, months before the exams. Her success earned praise because of the marginal livelihoods of her parents and her humble home.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com