Siegfried has a LL.M. degree in International Tax and has completed various post-master advanced programs on taxation of the extractive industry. He is considered a leading tax & legal specialist.by the industry. Siegfried has been providing tax and legal advice to Oil & Gas and Mining clients for over 10 years in the Netherlands, Middle East, Caribbean and Suriname.
1. What are your thoughts on the current state of the mining taxation regime in Suriname, what challenges do you see for the legal industry and how are you facing them?
The mining taxation regime in Suriname can be characterized as fragmented. Over the last decades, you could say that a new legal/tax framework is created for each new investor or group of investors in the extractive industry. This means that parallel to each other there are different rules applicable to companies in the same sector. There is no real justification for this and the situation has often led to complaints for the lack of a level playing field. The offshore oil and gas sector has its own legal framework and even between companies in that sector there are slight differences. The major Gold mining companies each have their own mineral agreement with its own characteristics. In the past, we had two major Bauxite companies, each with their own tax/legal framework. For the uninformed outsider it can be difficult to get a full grasp of all applicable legislation. It is therefore very important that each tax issue is reviewed on a case by case basis taking into account all of the specific legislation, policy and rulings applicable. The downside of all this is that the midsized or smaller investor may have difficulty entering the market as they often lack the resources to cut through all the ‘red tape’.
I believe the current Minister of Finance is working on getting a more uniform tax framework in place. This can be challenging as the current situation is already complex. However, for the first time in the last 40 years there is real legislative reform on its way with the introduction of new tax and accounting legislation. This will be a game changer for Suriname.
2. In your view, what is the best way to optimise taxation for the extractive industry in Suriname?
I believe that the best way to go about it is to first of all set up a dedicated extractive industry team within the Tax Authorities. This team should have the proper industry experience and know how to address tax issues arising in the sector. Specific legislation and policy should be put in place addressing the exact challenges or issues of the sector. Furthermore, the tax legislation in general should be modernized.
What I see is that the current Minister of Finance is taking controversial but necessary initiatives towards modernizing the Tax Authorities. Reorganization is underway and the introduction of modern tax policy and long absent checks and balances.
3. What should be the main goals moving forward for Suriname’s minerals development from the legal and regulatory framework perspective?
The most important goal should be to create clarity and certainty in advance. The extractive industry is typically capital intensive and long-term economic models are used when making an investment decision. Stability and clarity on tax matters is therefore paramount.
Recently Suriname has committed to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. This will lead to further transparency and accountability of natural resource income spending. This move by the government should be applauded.