JIS News

Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Desmond McKenzie has announced that the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has decided to issue a four-year revenue amnesty, which will see the Council giving up some $226 million in earnings.
Making the disclosure at the Council’s monthly press briefing in downtown Kingston yesterday (November 9), Mayor McKenzie said the reprieve would apply to trade licences, small billboards, barbers and hairdressers and amusement licences for four years, instead of the six years allowed to the council legally.
Chairman of the Finance Committee, Councillor Vernon McLeod explained that collection would only be for 2003 and 2004 with the other four years being written off, the proviso being that businesses pay for the two-year period by March 31, 2005. Failure to do this would see proprietors paying for the full six years.
Councillor McLeod pointed out that the relevant fees were not being increased, but were being applied.For trade licences, which are payable by every retail business in Kingston and St. Andrew, the fees range from a low of $25 per annum to a high of $3,500 yearly per business. He said the $3,500 would be applied to businesses, which had sales of more than $500,000 per annum.
Mr. McLeod said the $3,500 would be applied across the board, except in instances where a proprietor was able to demonstrate that his or her revenue fell below the $500,000 target. In this instance, he said the amount would be pro-rated.
He pointed out that small billboards and signs set up to attract businesses also attracted a fee of $3,500 per annum as well.
With the amnesty, some $56 million is expected to be earned from collections for trade licences and small billboards, respectively.
For barbers and hairdressers, he said each business would have to pay $3,500 for licensing for the November 2004/05 period. He said that from the data, which had shown that there were some 4,000 such operators in Kingston and St. Andrew, it was expected that some $14 million would be collected from barbers and hairdressers for the year.
On the matter of amusement licences, Councillor McLeod pointed out that operators of dances, parties, bingos and barbecues were also expected to pay a $3,500 licensing fee. He said while some persons had been complying, the majority had not. He informed that it was estimated that with 1,000 such events at $3,500, by year-end the Council could earn some $3.5 million.
Mayor McKenzie said the Council intended to use the same method used in tax collection, where persons were employed with specific responsibility to prepare and serve notices on taxpayers or to enforce regulations to get persons to comply. Additionally, a database of all licences issued would be put in place to help track persons liable to pay.
He also informed that come next week, a team would be returning to the streets to remove illegal billboards. Mayor McKenzie said downtown Kingston had been selected for the next phase, as despite time allowed for the district to comply, the response had been poor.
Mayor McKenzie emphasized that revenue was “important to the survival of the council”, and that it would use all legally available avenues to ensure compliance in revenue collection. He said failure to comply would result in the names of the businesses being published and the public advised not to support them.
Mayor McKenzie said letters would be written to the Jamaica Manufacturers Association, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica and all other interest groups to solicit support for the initiative.

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