#TurksandCaicosIslands – March 7, 2019 –
On February 18th, the following Bills were read in the House of Assembly for the first time and it was publicly announced that the Debate would take place on March 4th and 5th :
The Hotel Tourism and Restaurant Taxation Bill (HRTT) which provided an overhaul to the Law passed since 1985 allowing for a modernization of the law and a strengthening of the collection of taxes;
The HRTT (Amnesty) Bill which allowed for an Amnesty commencing April 1st and allowing for a waiver of all penalties and payable on any outstanding taxes due and payable under the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism (Taxation) Ordinance for the years up to and including the year ending 31 March 2019.
The HRTT (Validation) Bill which sought to ratify past actions.
Regrettably not all persons were able to hear the Debate in the House of Assembly where three serving former Ministers quite adequately shared their thoughts on why we were where we are today.
Of particular concern was the Amnesty Bill that offers relief to 41 local and expatriate owned Businesses. I offer again the following facts as stated during the Debate:
There has been NO WRITE OFF OF TAXES for any Business.
There are currently 41 establishments that are in arrears position of which 7 have been refferred to AG Chambers, 15 have paid the entire principal amount but not the interest (not accruing), and 19 have made no payments. (interest accruing).
Of the 19 businesses, Beaches TCI and Club Med collectively account for 96% of the amount outstanding. Should these businesses opt to benefit from the Amnesty, $28,638,820 of principal will be collected and $85,191,912 in interest will be forfeited.
Total amounts in arrear of principal and interest are $29,684,123 and $89,147,690 respectively as at January 31, 2019.
On the matter of Beaches, three former Ministers of Finance currently serving correctly summed up the situation as it relates to Beaches. Hon Derek Taylor spoke to the fact that the actions should be considered for what it is: a cleaning up exercise; Hon Royal Robinson offered that it was a matter that the issue has run on so long and now the “chickens have come home to roost and certain adjustments must be made” and Hon Washington Misick stated that he believe that this was a genuine oversight by all Governments: PDM and PNP since 1997. I agree with all save for the fact that I have every reason to believe that the immediate past Minister of Finance had knowledge of this matter and in fact his Party has issued a Release saying that he commissioned the Audit that revealed the Findings. The Audit covered September 2014 – August 2016 and it revealed that though Beaches and successive Governments operated on the understanding that it should pay 60% of the 12% tax, there was no written evidence save a letter written by Hon Washington Misick in 2014 confirming this to be the practise. Despite the findings revealing the oversight on the part of all successive governments, my Government has requested the payment of the full 100% of taxes for this period. I wish to thank the Revenue Control Unit for its work. In addition I wish to assure the public that Beaches and Club Med continues to pay its monthly taxes before the statutory deadline.
As it relates to Club Med, who since its opening has been allowed to pay 40% of the 12% tax under a Development Agreement. This Development Agreement has since expired and the former Administration had continued to collect under the same rate under the expired Agreement.
To this end, the Revenue Control Unit had to asssess both establishments on 100% and this is the matter before us.
Only Penalties are proposed to be written off. Penalties under the current Ordinance calculates monthly at 10% compounded. For an amount outstanding of $29,684,123, the total penalties are $89,147, 690. To be clear all businesses owing under this Audit are now attracting 240% in interest/penalty on the original taxes owed. As an example if a business owes $10,000 in taxes, it now attracts a penalty/interest of $38,000.00 for the Audit period. While penalties have been put in place to deter late payments, we believe the rate of 10% compounded monthly was too onerous and have reduced the rate and how it is calculated going forward under the new Ordinance passed on Monday.
I wish to confirm that local businesses will benefit under this Amnesty. Despite there being no request by the Opposition for a list of proposed beneficiaries, I now release the list of businesses that stand to benefit under the Amnesty Program and encourage them to take advantage of the offer that allows payment plans for up to 2 years. I appeal especially to locally owned businesses that have popular standing. We are more than happy to be able to provide such an opportunity.
Sugar and salt tax campaigns gaining steam
By Dana Malcolm
February 7, 2023 – A global battle on sugar and salt is ramping up as the United States joins The Bahamas and Barbados in creating proposals for historic sugar and salt laws.
The country’s Agricultural Department for the first time in history, proposed a cap on the amount of sugar to be allowed in school meals.
The World Health Organization has found that North America and the Caribbean have the highest rates of childhood diabetes in the world and based on the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes Atlas we also have the second highest prevalence of Diabetes overall for all global regions at 14 percent or 51 million people with a projected 24 percent increase in just 22 years.
Barbados, the United States, Canada, Haiti, Mexico, Belize and St. Kitts and Nevis are all suffering from incredibly high rates of diabetes.
Barbados and The Bahamas announced sugar taxes last month; the hope is to reduce the importation and sale of sugar and salt rich foods.
Advocates across the Caribbean including Jamaica, Trinidad, and others have been campaigning for sugar taxes in their own countries with support from the public.
Now the proposed nutritional rules for the United States would set firm boundaries on how much salt and sugar can legally be added to meals, setting a new standard as most food imports for countries like The Bahamas are from the US.
The plan for the US is expected to be rolled out by 2025.
The rules, are unapologetically an attempt to cut down incidences of diabetes and other diseases fueled by unhealthy diets, according to media reports.
For now, the quantities on sugar and salt additives is an idea waiting wider consultation.
TCI Office in Bahamas identified
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, February 7, 2023 – An office space has already been identified for an all-new TCI Immigration office in The Bahamas according to Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services.
Musgrove told Magnetic Media that the ministry was “almost there” in regard to securing the space; it indicates the Government is moving full speed ahead with plans for the passing of the new Immigration Bill which will allow third-generation TC Islanders citizenship, even as the public awaits consultations on it.
The announcement of the bill had caused some skepticism among islanders, some of whom wanted the government to focus on keeping TC Islanders at home instead of recruiting others. Musgrove however had made it clear that the TCI was in a population crisis and would need to slow down PRC naturalisation rates and naturalise people with historical, familial and cultural connections to the land or risk going ‘extinct’.
The office will work to deepen the relationship between the two sister countries even more and help increase the TCI’s population offsetting the need for masses of external labour according to the government.
When passed, the rule will apply to third-generation islanders everywhere, not only in The Bahamas giving them a free ticket to come home.
The Shore Club makes Travel + Leisure
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, February 7, 2023 – The Shore Club is the perfect place to escape the cold with your family according to well-known travel magazine, Travel + Leisure at least. The Turks and Caicos resort was featured in the worldwide magazine’s January feature last month.
“It’s hard to overstate the grandness of our accommodations,” travel writer Hannah Selinger gushed as she described the luxurious Shore Club experience that retails for around $750 per night.
The resort owned by Stan Hartling, 2021 TCI Humanitarian of the Year, was lauded for its use of local materials including coral harvested in Long Bay on which the property resides. The writer was particularly impressed with the expansive space and multiple amenities at the resort which even when significantly booked “never feels even remotely full”.
She described the food and the entirety of her experience as ‘extremely satisfying’.
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