It’s time to change tax system, Premier tells PLP
Major changes to Bermuda’s tax structure are needed to reduce the cost of living, according to the Premier.
David Burt said at the Progressive Labour Party annual conference that difficult conversations may be needed to create a fairer tax system – one which he said may contain taxes on incomes.
The Premier said: “In a globalised society where the world is changing, for our economy to be sustainable, we must have those conversations that we may not have been comfortable having before.
“When the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance joins the leader of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party in supporting the Fiscal Responsibility Panel’s recommendation for tax on incomes, then clearly we are past talking about whether or not it is time.
“It is now time to work together to implement overdue changes in a fair and balanced fashion.”
Mr Burt said the cost of living and the cost of doing business were the most pressing issues facing Bermudians, and tax reforms could help address that.
He said: “The main taxes that Bermuda uses to collect revenue – customs duties, payroll taxes and taxes on fuel – increase the cost of living and increase the cost of doing business.
“A fairer tax system can help us reduce our cost of living, which in turn will boost economic growth, and that is why it is essential that it be advanced.”
Mr Burt added that while immigration was a controversial topic, the economic reality the island faces should not be.
He said: “We cannot fix the burning issues of higher taxes and high cost of living without increasing the number of people that live and work in Bermuda.
“This does not mean that all persons need to be imported – if we do our job to make Bermuda more fair, there are Bermudians that will return.
“However it is vital that we shift from the false choice of ’is population growth good or bad’ to a mindset of ’economic growth is essential and if we are going to have economic growth, how do we ensure that growth benefits Bermudians who have been left behind?”
Mr Burt said bold moves on multiple fronts were needed to improve the island for Bermudians, and the PLP was committed to building a sustainable future.
He said: “We cannot continue to ignore the demographic challenges facing Bermuda and pretend they will disappear.
“We cannot continue to hold on to old and outdated school buildings as an excuse to delay much needed public education reform following consultation.
“We cannot continue to defend a healthcare system that doesn’t work for our country and leaves thousands unable to access healthcare – our unfair system of taxation.”
“We cannot pretend that we will fix our country without fixing the primary driver of economic inequality which is at the root of most of our problems – our unfair system of taxation.”
The comments came as part of the opening night of the 55th Annual Progressive Labour Party, which was live-streamed on the party’s Facebook and YouTube page last night from Alaska Hall.
Jason Wade, PLP MP for Southampton East Central, said the College Promise programme “presents huge advantages to our students”.
He said: “Any student graduating from the public school system with the appropriate GPA can now do their first two years of college for free and transfer into a third year of a programme in hundreds of overseas institutions.
“Imagine how much money you can save by not having to pay for your first two years of university.”
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said the government was using infrastructure projects to encourage small and medium sized contractors to get work and to hire more people.