Duty relief extension granted
Legislation extending duty relief for the Island's hotels and restaurants was last night given the go-ahead by the House of Assembly.
The Hotels (Temporary Customs Duty Relief) Amendment Bill 2014 and the Restaurants (Temporary Customs Duty Relief) Amendment Bill 2014 awarded another five years of tax breaks offered to businesses, who received the same deals under the Progressive Labour Party Government.
Concessions in the last four years added up to $1.4 million for restaurant — and $8.5 million for hotels, Finance Minister Bob Richards told MPs.
The legislation, if approved by the Senate, will come into effect on April 1, extending the offer of zero customs duty on goods imported for renovation and refurbishment in both sectors until March 31, 2019. The existing legislation covering both sectors is set to end at the end of the month.
Hotels have received such relief since 1991, while restaurants began receiving duty relief in 2002 after restaurateurs argued that restaurants in hotels — which were covered by the 1991 legislation — were receiving an unfair advantage.
In each case, Independent MP Terry Lister asked Government to consider shortening the latest round of concessions to just three years — moves supported by Shadow Finance Minister David Burt, who told Government: “Concessions are a lot easier not to extent than they are to take away.”
And Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert argued that it wouldn't entail extra bureaucracy for Government to take away concessions to hotels that were now paying out dividends to shareholders.”
For the restaurants concession, Mr Richards told the House: “If the evidence of recovery is there, we will repeal it.”
But Mr Richards urged MPs not to “penalise success” when it came to hotels, saying it was “an industry whose back is against the wall”.
He said the Island couldn't afford to frighten away potential investors by taking away tax breaks for thriving hotels.
He added: “This sector is in such bad shape that we can take the risk of them interpreting any of the actions you're suggesting like that.”