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Dear Editor: Senior citizens being denied departure tax exemption due to dual citizenship

“Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who are 60 years and older are exempt from paying the airport usage fees, usually called Departure Tax. But a recent instruction to the airlines by the legal department of the Immigration Office has modified this privilege and I think wrongly so.

“The airlines have been told that citizens who hold dual citizenship are no longer entitled to the exemption if they leave the country on the other passport…”

The following Letter to the Editor on modifications to Departure Tax exemptions for Trinidad and Tobago senior citizens was submitted to Wired868 by Michael Clarke:

Photo: Senior citizens at the airport.

Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who are 60 years and older are exempt from paying the airport usage fees, usually called Departure Tax. But a recent instruction to the airlines by the legal department of the Immigration Office has modified this privilege and I think wrongly so.

The airlines have been told that citizens who hold dual citizenship are no longer entitled to the exemption if they leave the country on the other passport.

At one time, one could leave using the Trinidad passport but land in the foreign country using the other passport. Now, the advance notice of passengers that the airlines have to give requires the passenger to use the passport to be used to land when leaving.

Initially, this was not a problem. Passengers who qualified showed both passports at departure to claim the exemption. As from November 2017, the airlines were instructed that the exemption must not be granted in such cases.

Since, the citizen cannot claim protection of the other state while in Trinidad sand Tobago, it means that he/she is still a citizen while in T&T’s airspace and entitled—I think—to all the rights and privileges. It seems that that instruction is improper.

On the return leg, the citizen has to show that he/she is a citizen on arrival in Piarco or Scarborough. The instruction seems illogical and motivated purely by the desire to get revenue and should be cancelled.

Photo: A Caribbean Airlines plane.

Tangent to this matter is the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) practice on collecting the tax. If the ticket is bought in an office, the exemption is granted immediately. If it is bought online, CAL requires the passenger to pay and apply for a refund at its office.

At one time, the refund application was made on checking in but no longer. The claim for refund must be made within three months of departure or before departure, but no way on the site is the passenger told of this time limit. Fate help the senior citizen who stays away more than three months!

In contrast, one can get a CAL fare as a senior citizen online, even while having to pay the ‘Departure Tax’. Seems the program has not been designed to accommodate the senior citizen.

It is good to note that LIAT has the online facility to claim both the exemption before purchase and also the refund after it is paid.

I hope the relevant officials will address these issues.

Photo: Senior citizens.

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28 comments

  1. I agree with de letter writer. Once dey say citizen, then it should apply to anyone with a valid T&T passport. Otherwise, they should explicitly rewrite/amend de rule. I find dey nitpicking unnecessarily.

  2. In some CARICOM countries, you can just show your passport when paying your departure tax. And it doesn’t have to be the one you are traveling on.

  3. What is the amount they now need to pay?

  4. He utilised the two passports to take advantage of the exemption here.Why not give up the other citizenship and be eligible for the exemption?

  5. no he/she just leaves on the TT passport,

  6. This person wants to have his cake and eat it too.