Delinquent housing contributors get amnesty

Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has approved a six-month amnesty of penalty on outstanding National Housing Trust contributions for the period January 16, 2006 to July 15, 2006, on the request of the NHT board of directors.

The trust has an estimated total of $9 billion in outstanding NHT contributions to be retrieved from delinquent employers islandwide. The amount includes contributions deducted from employees’ earnings, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

As a result, the organisation will be giving employers a six-month window to pay up their arrears without having to pay an additional 20 per cent per annum in penalty fees on these arrears. The trust has planned to write off the penalty charge.

During the amnesty period, delinquent contributors would be allowed to apply for a waiver of penalties on outstanding contributions for all years up to December 2004.

However, those who apply for the waiver must meet three requirements:

Submit all outstanding returns at the time of the application;

Submit a proposal for payment of the outstanding contributions within a maximum of five years;

Must be up-to-date with current contributions.

Managing director for the NHT, Earl Samuels, told The Gleaner yesterday that employers who have been delinquent in their payments after July 15, 2006 will not qualify for this arrangement. He said the arrangement to write off the penalty charges serves as an incentive for persons in arrears to come upfront and pay. The offer will not surpass the six-month period.

“We are giving them a second chance,” said Mr. Samuels, who explained that it was dishonest for employers to deduct the amount from employees’ salaries and not pay it over to the NHT. “Persons after 2004 will have to pay their penalties,” he underscored.

“Employees can’t get any NHT benefits or refunds if these amounts were not paid over to the NHT,” he said. At present, the NHT is paying out refunds with interest up to 1998, but if employees’ contributions are not recorded then, according to Mr. Samuels, they have nothing to collect.

He said the total estimated outstanding contributions for employees is $2 billion.

The NHT Act requires that employers make monthly payments to the NHT comprising two per cent contributions from employees’ wage and the employers’ three per cent contribution.