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Implementation of payroll measure delayed

Bob Richards

The implementation of the employees’ portion of proposed payroll tax reform will be delayed until July 1, Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, told the House of Assembly last night.

The announcement came before the Payroll Tax Amendment Act 2017 was debated by MPs and prompted a sharp rebuke from Opposition leader David Burt.

While the legislation, complete with the delayed implementation, was approved in the House, Mr Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, branded Mr Richards’s tax reform package as “badly thought out”.

“It will cost Bermudian jobs and make our financial situation more difficult. That will be the legacy of the Minister of Finance’s last budget,” he said. Promising the Progressive Labour Party would implement “comprehensive tax reform” he added: “The Government is now being forced to delay something else because of the difficulty of implementing it by employers.

“It’s a challenge on employers and difficult to implement and that is why the Minister of Finance has delayed that portion.”

Responding to questions, Mr Richards said the delay would cost the government around $820,000 in lost revenue, but said he would not return to the House to have the implementation of the fee structure set back again.

“This is a one-time concession in terms of time,” he said. “The Government is not in a position to push this down the track any further.”

Last night’s announcement comes just days after the Government was forced to back-pedal on revenue-raising customs amendments that had been expected to bring in almost $20 million.

An e-mail sent to importers on Tuesday advised that the Ministry of Finance was “reconsidering” the proposals and needed to revise them. Under proposals outlined by Richards in the budget lower-paid workers will get payroll tax cuts over two years, while big earners will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets. The payroll tax cap will rise from $750,000 to $900,000, while Bermuda’s biggest earners will see a payroll tax rate jump from 6 per cent to 11 per cent.