House Approves Tax Committee Report by Narrow Margin


The House of Representatives on Tuesday (Sept. 30) approved the Tax Committee Report by a vote of 24 to 23 in favour of the Government, with 12 members of Parliament absent at the time of the vote, which followed a lengthy debate.
The tax Committee, which was chaired by Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, made several recommendations, including the removal of General Consumption Tax (GCT) on maintenance fees for residential strata and veterinary services; zero-rated all books; withdrew the tax on charitable services rendered by charitable corporations, but not on legal fees in criminal cases, which was strongly opposed by members of the Opposition. Arguing that the tax was unconstitutional, Opposition Spokesman on Justice, Delroy Chuck said the tax on lawyers in criminal cases could not be justified, as it was the client who would have to pay it eventually. He suggested that circulation of newspapers had fallen due to the tax on reading materials, including magazines and books, contending that increased taxation would yield less tax, and calling instead, for an increase in the tax threshold and expansion of the number of economic transactions, as alternative means of increasing tax revenues for the Government.
Karl Samuda, the Opposition spokesman on Industry and Commerce, called for more public education on the impact of the imposition of taxes, why certain taxes were necessary and how the taxpayer helped the country; the time frame for the withdrawal of the two per cent tax on the productive sector, as it cannot be permanent; and a review of taxes to cut out those that are unnecessary.
Other contributions to the debate came from Ernie Smith, Opposition spokesman on mining and Dr. Ken Baugh, who, speaks on health issues, opposed the tax on health insurance premiums on the grounds that it would create a burden on people, and called for it to be removed.
In his reply, Dr. Davies, who piloted the Report, pointed out that by removing the tax in criminal cases while leaving it in civil cases, was tantamount to supporting criminals, which was not on. He reminded the House that in respect of the tax on books, this had been removed, but not on newspapers.
He however, accepted the suggestion by Mr. Samuda that a publications industry needed to be developed and said he would assist in the process. On the suggestion by Mr. Samuda that the gaming industry had suffered from the recent tax, the Finance Minister argued that it was too early for panic and change. “We will examine the figures to see if it is a trend, because there is always a reduction immediately after the tax”. Other members of the Tax Committee on the government side were, National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips; Development Minister, Dr. Paul Robertson; Water and Housing Minister, Donald Buchanan; Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Fitz Jackson; and Dr. Morais Guy. Opposition spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw; Abraham Dabdoub, Opposition spokesman on Land and the Environment; Rudyard Spencer, Opposition spokesman on Labour, represented the Opposition.

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