Chamber proposes Budget wish list
Bermuda Chamber of Commerce president John Wight says he supports a broadening of the Bermuda Government's tax base in the interests of the island's fiscal stability.
His comments came as the Chamber published a detailed “wish list” for the upcoming Budget Statement, which finance minister Bob Richards is scheduled to announce on February 24.
“There needs to be a recognition by all businesses in our community that shared sacrifice is required in 2017-18 to achieve Bermuda's economic goals,” Mr Wight said. “This will necessitate both increasing revenues and reducing expenditures.
“In respect of increasing revenues, we would like to see a broadening of the tax base to reduce the dependency on payroll tax to generate revenues. This has been raised previously by Government as one of its goals, and we support this approach.
“There are certainly very encouraging signs of an improving economy. However, much more is needed. Financial stability for Bermuda is so critical for businesses operating out of Bermuda, and those considering investing in Bermuda.”
Mr Wight expressed support for the Government's goal of eliminating the deficit within three years.
“Government does not have an easy job of presenting a budget that meets the needs of narrowing the deficit, while at the same time not being too punitive to local and international businesses operating in Bermuda,” Mr Wight said.
“In last year's budget, Government committed to eliminating the current account deficit over a three-year period. We will need to see a continuation of that commitment in this year's budget to ensure that the timeline is maintained.”
He urged a flexible approach to support Bermuda's competitive position amid political upheaval on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Any plans by the Bermuda Government and the business community will also be made with consideration of the major policy and leadership changes we have seen in the UK and US Governments,” Mr Wight said.
“To succeed in this new and uncertain environment will require Bermuda's Government, businesses and members of the community to be open to the unexpected and to be willing to work together to adapt to coming changes from our trading partners.
“Bermuda's debt currently stands at $2.5 billion. To put this into context, this represents about $49,000 per resident as was announced by the Ministry of Finance. If guarantees and other unfunded healthcare schemes and pensions are included, this could amount to as much as $7 billion. Budget deficits and the high debt jeopardise economic growth in Bermuda.”
Kendaree Burgess, the Chamber's executive director, provided the following wish list of items that the Divisions of the Chamber of Commerce would like to see in the Minister's budget. The list was sent to the Ministry of Finance several months ago.
Bermuda Automobile Dealers Association
• Review duty threshold for small cars to encourage use of smaller cars.
• Consider leasing and rental of cars for tourists.
• Duty free electric vans similar to Electric cars.
• No increase in security guard license fees.
• Review of the Security Act to ensure that all guards are vetted by the Bermuda Police Service.
• Continuation of duty free concession
• Discussion around a simplified process to clear goods through customs for retailers.
• Ease the burden of import duties for brick-and-mortar stores by introducing a fairer service tax across industries.
• Discuss cause and effect of value added tax / general services tax versus upfront import duty on all goods for resale.
• Discuss cause and effect of simplified tariff rates.
Real Estate Division
• Fees for non-Bermudian property sales to remain unchanged.
• Stamp duty of the sale of properties to remain unchanged.
• Shorten the time that it takes lawyers to record property sales with the Registrar.
• Shorten the time that it takes Immigration to handle an alien licence to less than six months.
• The land licence application fee to continue to be refunded on grant of an alien licence.
• Continue stamp duty relief for first-time buyers.
• Consideration of leaving the current payroll tax concession in place for another year without an increase.
• Government to be strict on those who don't pay Government taxes/Health Insurance, etc in a timely manner. Tie them to health certification, licenses and work permits.
• Beer/Spirits/Wine taxes to remain as is with no increase.
East End Division
• Better security and police presence in the Town of St George.
• Improved transportation to and from the town for Bus and Ferry service.
• Dedicated cruise ship to the town.
West End Division
• Transportation plan for the West End prior to America's Cup 2017